What Makes A Great Luxury Travel Agency Stand Out From The Crowd?

by Donna Tunney
What Makes A Great Luxury Travel Agency Stand Out From The Crowd?

Research suggests luxury travel is growing faster than travel overall. Photo: Ritz-Carlton Bali.

The luxury travel market has been in robust form and, by all accounts, continues to gain steam.

An Amadeus report, Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel 2016, noted that luxury travel trips are projected to grow at an annual rate of 6.2% through 2025, almost a third faster than overall travel, at 4.8%.

Another report, published by Allied Market Research, puts the luxury growth rate even higher, at 6.5%. It found that luxury travelers take three to four trips each year, and that “high spending power and search for exclusivity with high comfort and first class facilities” are the major factors behind the demand.

With these and other upbeat stats shining the spotlight on luxury agents, we wondered: What makes a great luxury travel agency stand out from the crowd? What does it consider its mission to be? What are its secrets to success?

So we went to a highly motivated luxury agency to find out. Absolute Travel, based in New York City, was founded by Ken Fish in 1989. With Wall Street experience behind him and a deep appreciation for the personal rewards travel brings, Fish pursued his dream of selling luxury.

Specializing in arranging trips for intrepid travelers to remote destinations, Absolute Travel was the first U.S.-based company to sell trips to Vietnam and Cambodia. It was named Travel + Leisure's World’s Best Tour Operator in 2013, and has grown to employ 20-plus people.

Fish's traveling mantra is: “Travel light and with a smile.”

We asked Absolute Travel to reveal five tips it believes have contributed to its success. Here's what the agency told TMR:

  1. Put in the time.
    Real luxury is not just about a beautiful place to rest your head, it’s about personalization. We ensure the journey pays attention to the details that make a trip feel as one-of-a- kind as the traveler. We’re not just booking off the shelf vacations; we take a considerable amount of time with every single client to work together on creating their ideal journey. It’s a collaboration.
  1. Know your stuff.
    Our luxury travel specialists are renowned for their in-depth destination knowledge of the world’s most far-flung corners. They are opinionated, thoughtful and enjoy sharing ideas and discoveries with our clients.
  1. Trust your own eyes.
    We vet hotels so our clients are not misled. We give firsthand hotel recommendations that have been tested—one lodge, one hotel, one resort, one tent at a time. We all know what you see online isn’t always what you get. We don’t trust reviews when designing a client's trip—we rely on our own in-house knowledge.
  1. Get the inside track.
    An extensive, global network of insiders and experts is key. It allows us to create truly special experiences that often become the most memorable part of our clients’ trips. We cherish our friendships around the globe, and help enhance our clients’ journeys by working together to create experiences they will remember for a lifetime.
  1. Share the love.
    We have a passion for travel that is in our DNA and defines us. Our desire to get out there, remove ourselves from our comfort zones, and take life by the horns makes us who we are, and it’s contagious. Sharing that genuine enthusiasm and those pivotal moments in our lives with a client is what we’re all about.

Regarding No. 5, it's clear from exploring Absolute Travel's web site that its staff's enthusiasm for travel is boundless. Staffers’ photos appear with their titles and background information, and with entertaining information about their own travel experiences.

Holly Monahan, a luxury travel manager, for instance, was most recently in South Africa and will next travel to Thailand. She describes her favorite trip experience this way:  “My perfect day in Kerala, India: spicy masala dosa for breakfast, floating along the backwaters sipping a coconut, and a four-handed Ayurvedic massage before sunset.”

Sales associate Laura Bottone's last trip was to New Zealand, and she will soon head to Nicaragua. Her top experience: “Arriving in Munich on a snowy night and taking shelter in a local beer hall with good food, great people and a large stein of beer.”

And travel manager Matthew LaPolice most recently visited Sudan and Ethiopia. He's bound next for Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong. His favorite experience is all about the “local and cultural” exposure so many luxury clients say they want: “Playing a game of soccer with the local children at a village near Inle Lake, Myanmar, during the Thingyan water festival.

It makes for effective online marketing, with an authentic touch.


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