What Boutique Travel Is and Isn’t – Here’s How to Qualify Your Clients

Sponsored by Uniworld
by Kerry Tice
What Boutique Travel Is and Isn’t – Here’s How to Qualify Your Clients

Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. 


Some well-traveled clients want what they want. Others aren’t quite sure what they want – and therefore rely on you to qualify them. When it comes to boutique travel products, one could almost say it’s as close to custom as you can get – reserved for those seeking something exclusive and ideal for anyone who likes their needs catered to.

Boutique and unique may rhyme by coincidence but one is very much a part of the other. So when determining whether or not your client is suited for boutique travel, consider lifestyle, age group, preferences, past travel experiences and some of the reasons why boutique is in a category all its own. If you’re not quite sure, here are a few reminders of what boutique is:

Small.
Boutique travel is limited, but in a good way. The very definition of the word calls for specialized goods or services aimed at a specific customer base. Translation? The general population does not fit the bill. Does your client tend to have specific needs and wants when they travel? Do they prefer small groups over big? These are questions worth asking.

Premium Prices with a Superior ROI.
Whether or not your client is willing to pay to qualify for inclusion in the “boutique club” can help in narrowing down your search. If you have a customer who prefers the best to the rest and cost is secondary, then boutique might just be what they are looking for. But if cost is still a sticking point, don’t give up just yet. Consider this advice from one agent who sells boutique. “The key is to emphasize value over price,” said LuAnn Lisell, owner of Lisell Travel in Plano, Texas. “If you know they can afford it, but they’re not willing to absorb the cost quite yet, then encourage them to postpone their trip from six months to a year out. Then they can plan and save and you didn’t lose the sale entirely.” While you might need to convince them initially that their return will far outweigh their investment, odds are you won’t have to sell them twice.

Luxurious.
Elegance is the essence of luxury and a large part of why boutique appeals to so many, but is only reserved for some. From the glorious setting to the carefully-selected amenities, the scrumptious food and wine to the unparalleled service, luxury is the essence of boutique travel. Your client will feel their boutique experience has been designed just for them. Who doesn’t want to be pampered?

Immersive.
The atmosphere of a boutique experience is subtle but not missed – this is because it is absorbed into the product. When traveling in boutique fashion, clients will typically note the intimate and relaxed atmosphere, the stylish décor and the refined artistry. They will marvel at how when in France, everything from the food and wine to the music is French, whether they are onboard a boutique ship, settling into their hotel or touring the local city. Often boutique travel products blend old-world elegance with the latest technological innovations, original art and plush furnishings and antiques. In essence, boutique travel products tend to have personality. “We have found that as our clients become more experienced travelers, they seek out a more boutique experience that reflects the location [they want to visit],” said Sheelagh King, co-owner of North & King Signature Travel in Seattle, Washington.

Gracious Service.
Boutique providers pride themselves on authenticity, which is why attention to the smallest of details can make the greatest impact. It’s another reason why boutique travelers tend to be repeat travelers. They know that no request is too large and no detail is too small to be met. Staff-to-guest ratios in boutique properties or aboard boutique cruises tend to be higher than the norm, ensuring they go above and beyond to cater to guests and help create extraordinary experiences. “What makes boutique travel special is the dedicated teams that make every moment memorable, plus the uncompromising service, experience and value that is provided to each and every customer,” said Mary Jean Thompson, an agent with TravelDesigns by Campbell in Dallas, Texas.

Not Everything to Everybody.
While this is true, it also doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t experience boutique travel – at the very least, once. Don’t assume your client isn’t a boutique traveler without first giving them the option to decide. Present the value proposition and all of the reasons above as to why boutique could be the perfect fit for them and then let boutique sell itself.

FROM THE SPONSOR: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection —the world's most luxurious all-inclusive river cruise line - features stunning, one-of-kind boutique ships with an average capacity of 130 guests, exclusive excursions, five-star farm-to-table cuisine, and one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios on the rivers. Based in Los Angeles, California, Uniworld offers the most all-inclusive itineraries in Europe, as well as voyages in Russia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia, India, and Egypt—a total of 23 rivers in 24 countries worldwide.  With the guiding principle “no request too large, no detail too small,” Uniworld approaches each guest, each itinerary and each ship with an unparalleled attention to detail, resulting in a highly intimate experience. Uniworld voyages include in-suite butler service, Hermes, Asprey and L’Occitane bathroom amenities, distinctive wines, regional beers and premium spirits, all meals onboard, ship-wide Wi-Fi, bicycles for use on shore, expertly planned shore excursions, all gratuities and airport transfers. For more information, visit www.uniworld.com.

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