Today’s luxury travelers want it all – from the best amenities to the most exclusive perks and privileges. But that’s not all. They also want optimized vacation experiences tailored exclusively by an expert who understands their personal needs.
Travel sellers looking to increase their revenue should consider positioning themselves as such an expert. But travel agents who don’t already have a luxury clientele or experience with luxury products may find expanding into the luxury market daunting.
To help both newcomers and experienced luxury agents, Travel Market Report spoke with four luxury travel sellers who attended the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes last month.
We asked these experts to discuss what defines luxury travel, who the luxury traveler is, and how to find luxury clients. Here’s what they said.
Beyond 5 stars
Luxury travelers are “looking to do things like stay at upscale properties or looking for amenities that normally aren’t provided by tour companies,” said Robbie Gold, president of Ensemble Travel Group member Travel Center Tours in Chicago.
Specialized tours, private cars, restaurant reservations – these all are part and parcel of what luxury travelers want, he added.
But simply booking a luxury client into the hottest new hotel or on a cut-and-paste tour isn’t enough. Today’s luxury clients want their entire experiences fully mapped out and fully customized to their desires.
Enhance the experience
“In more traditional times, luxury travel was all about the product, so it was the top cruise line, the top hotel,” said Jill Romano, owner of Novato, Calif.-based Dimensions in Travel Inc., also a member of Ensemble.
“Now a lot more of it has to do with the experience. So it’s not enough to just sell the luxury end of the cruise business or a Small Luxury Hotel. It’s also about capturing how to enhance their experience from the moment they get on the plane until they come home.”
Stacy Small, president of Virtuoso member agency Elite Travel International in Brentwood, Calif. agreed. “Luxury travel goes far beyond a five-star rating at a hotel,” she told Travel Market Report.
What else does luxury require? Everything from details such as good lighting and electric outlets within easy reach to personalized greetings from the bellman, front desk clerk and general manager, Small said.
Luxury traveler: no one type
As with most client types, there is no such thing as a “typical” luxury client.
“Our [luxury] clients range from C-level execs at banks and law firms to founders of technology firms,” said Small. “What they have in common is that they can all afford luxury travel.
“But they may look very different when they show up to a five-star hotel. Today’s luxury client may be 25 and wearing jeans and a sweatshirt or she or he may be a 60-something retiree wearing designer labels.”
Moving clients to luxury
All travel agents have luxury travelers in their customer database. They just need to learn how to move those clients into the luxury segment, agents said.
“Every luxury traveler we have developed from somewhere (else),” said Steve Orens, president of Signature agency Plaza Travel in Encino, Calif. “I don’t think anybody starts staying at a Four Seasons right away.”
In the past few years, it’s actually become easier to move clients from premium cruising to luxury cruising, because of pricing, Orens said.
This luxury cruise experience changes clients’ tastes in other categories. “If we can open their eyes to an Oceania or a Crystal, then we’ve helped the traveler progress to a new level of luxury.”
Word of mouth is golden
Once travel sellers have moved some current clients into the luxury segment, word of mouth will bring new luxury clients, agents said.
“The luxury traveler wants to work with someone that either they know or their friends or co-workers know, because it’s not as easy for them to entrust their luxury trip to just anyone,” Romano said.
But look beyond referrals too
Travel agents also can join country clubs or team up with luxury retailers or even luxury cruise lines or tour providers to gain access to potential clients, Gold added.
Elite Travel’s Small said she also relies on social media, which allows her to position herself as a luxury travel expert.
Next time: Practical tips on increasing your luxury market share.