The Baby Boomer audience is enormous, the Millennials are a sizeable up-and-coming market, and people are living longer than ever. All of these facts bode well for travel sellers, and particularly for luxury travel agents who are willing to learn how to sell to the affluent.
“If you are open-minded and if you listen, you will find out that the world of opportunity at the luxury end is blossoming to a degree that is supported by demographics,” said Larry Pimentel, president of Azamara Club Cruises and travel industry veteran, who spoke to hundreds of travel agents in a keynote address during The Affluent Traveler Collection Symposium in Boca Raton, Florida, last week.
Pimentel advised agents that the luxury of a bygone era was formal and narrowly defined … but that is not so in today’s world.
“There are so many forms of luxury today – not one,” he said, noting that the first step is to determine what luxury means to your client. For some, luxury is as simple as being able to gather all of their family members in one place for one vacation, while for others it’s about butler service and premier cabins. “It’s your job to interpret value. You need to win their heart and you need to define what they have experienced versus what they have bought.”
Numbers tell the story
Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, parent company of Azamara, recently commissioned a travel study conducted by Boston Consulting Group to help define the luxury traveler. Among the findings was that Baby Boomers have a lot of money to spend through 2049 and they love to travel. The study showed that luxury travelers surveyed (those making over $250,000 per year and with $1 million in liquidity) are not lured by price, but instead by experiences that enrich them.
Furthermore, while 10,000 people a day are soon expected to reach the retirement age of 65, in many cases these Baby Boomers are not retiring, but rather, they are regenerating their careers and opening new businesses. Why? Because they are doers who want to be able to afford to take the trips on their bucket lists and beyond.
How to approach luxury travelers
So how do you approach these clients? According to Pimentel’s research, there are 3 important components to keep in mind when selling to today’s luxury traveler:
Exclusivity —Luxury travelers do not want what everyone else has. They want something different, created just for them. “You need to give them what they can’t Google, like taking over an opera house in Italy,” said Pimentel. “They want to be educated and enriched.”
Authenticity —This comes from localization and human connections. Luxury travelers want to have shared experiences with the people of a destination and they want those experiences to be real, not staged.
Experiences —Even though this market segment is aging, they want active, not passive, vacation experiences. “If they are into culinary, then they want to go to the local market and buy the ingredients for their own lunch,” he said.
Selling to the affluent is also about you as the seller. According to Pimentel, it comes down to psychology. “The affluent buyer wants to buy from someone who is confident about what they’re talking about. You have to articulate luxury to them and sell up. All they can say is 'no,' so start at the top.” Pimentel also reminded travel agents that what and how they sell will determine their worth to clients. “They are evaluating you by that experience. And that will be the deciding factor in whether they return to you.”
Top five tips
Pimentel finished his session by sharing his top five tips for agents selling to the affluent:
1. Experience the world and the products you’re selling. Travel kills prejudice. There is never an end to education.
2. Keep pace with global luxury trends and tastes.
3. Set goals and have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, you might not get where you want to go.
4. Listen more and talk less. Get to the value part of the conversation.
5. Don’t waste time, close the sale. Ask them, “So, do you want to book in June?” or “Which cabin did you prefer again?”
“Luxury travel is big, growing and evolving,” said Pimentel. “If you want to play in it, say 'I can,' and if you fail, so what? Get up and try it again. The power is within you.”