Luxury Experts: Understand Your Customers
by  and  rew Sheivachman

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Luxury experts at The Affluent Traveler Symposium’s opening session here on Tuesday implored travel professionals to better understand their current customers and expand their business by exploring market segments with growth potential.

“Luxury is back and it’s back with a vengeance,” said Jeff Senior, chief marketing officer of Fairmont Hotels. “We’re excited about where  we’re headed in every dimension.”

The panel discussion on “The Faces of Luxury,” which took place at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, addressed the different types of luxury travelers and what they are looking for in a vacation experience.

“The important thing for everyone in this room is to understand consumer segmentation,” said Senior.

Senior divides travelers into three groups-- researchers, who are exhausted by the amount of research they do; experientials, who want to understand the craftsmanship behind their experience, and the traditional traveler looking for a normal luxury vacation.

Others suggested that pairing the right product with the right luxury client is of utmost importance, regardless of customer demographic.

“By slowing the travel experience, going deeper and understanding the local culture, there is more of a luxury experience for travelers,” said Greg Furman, founder of The Luxury Marketing Council, who led the panel discussion.

Affluent consumers across all demographics want unique vacations with high-touch amenities.

“Luxury travelers want to be treated as individuals -- no nametags, crowding or anything that takes away their identity,” said Rick Baron, managing director of worldwide accounts for Tauck.

Niches to explore
Niche consumer markets experiences are a strong opportunity for luxury agents. Getting involved in multigenerational travel, for instance, can pay dividends for decades.

“Think of multigenerational travel when looking at your rolodex. If you’ve got the grandparents all the way down to the grandchildren in there, you can have them for life if you mold them now,” said Kim Daley, vice president and managing director of Journese.

Solo travelers represent another growth market. Suppliers are capitalizing on the trend too, introducing new products, from solo-friendly tours to more single staterooms on cruise ships.

“We are seeing an uptick in the solo traveler,” said Christienne de Souza, director of national accounts for AmaWaterways. “I encourage you to look into your database to market to those customers. The market does skew to women as a demographic,” she added.

Millennials and luxury travel
Luxury sellers might not be thinking about millennials, but they should, panelists suggested. Millennials don’t have the spending power of more mature generations, but they will soon.

Agents interest in attracting younger clients should pay attention to the types of companies millennials identify with.

“Millennials define themselves by the brands they do business with,” said Senior. “While they’re not in a financial position to spend like other segments, they are well on their way.”

For suppliers, it can be a challenge to cater to millennial expectations while maintaining a strong experience for boomers.

“Millennials perceive luxury differently than other generations, and we’re learning how to adapt to both dynamics so we’re not alienating one component of cruiser over another,” said Kristian Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of Silversea.

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Tip of the Day
The consumer is unaware of how many booking brands are actually owned by larger OTAs. A full 75% of all third parties roll into Expedia, and another 20% into Priceline. Consumers believe they are getting a choice but they are dealing with very few companies.
 
Katherine Lugar
American Hotel & Lodging Association
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