More than 300 advisors and supplier partners gathered at the Kimpton EPIC Miami this week, to celebrate the annual conference of the Affluent Traveler Collection (ATC) Symposium, the first time the ATC Symposium was held in Miami.
ATC is the AMG carve out for its luxury travel advisors and agencies targeting affluent consumers—the members that make up the collection are also members of a sister brand like NEST or TRAVELSAVERS, but have access to a collection of suppliers and tools that are geared exclusively towards the luxury segment.
Some of the members at ATC Symposium this week have been with the collection for the entirety of its 20-year history, others have just joined ATC on the heels of the luxury travel explosion that’s been ongoing since the post-pandemic rebound.
“We are solely focused on luxury for you,” Nicole Mazza, the CMO of ATC said onstage this week. “I thank you for your belief in this organization and your belief in the industry. You have always stayed focused on your business and believed in this industry and believed in this dream.”
As the fastest-growing segment in travel, luxury has been resilient both post-pandemic and now, at the end of 2023, despite economic and geopolitical headwinds.
“Luxury is the highest buzzword we have today in our industry,” Mazza said. “We are finding the affluent travelers are definitely more resilient.”
The numbers year-over-year prove that sentiment—ATC luxury cruise sales are up 22%, luxury guided sales are up 24%, room nights revenue is up 30%, and room nights are up 45%—and the future of the segment could see more of the same, with more high-net-worth consumers opting for an advisor
“More than 90% of the luxury travelers today want to use or have used a travel advisor over the next 18 months,” Mazza said.
Program additions and updates
After moving to digital-only a few years back, the Affluent Traveler Magazine, the flagship publication of ATC, is returning to print (the digital edition will also remain).
“We will go back to being in newsstands and first-class lounges in North America,” Mazza said. “We are going to place that publication with the hopes of driving demand back to you.”
ATC is also enhancing the consumer-facing profiles on its website, allowing members to do full profiles in hopes of producing a steady stream of solid, warm leads for the members.
“We want to make sure that our affluent advisors are showcases,” Mazza told reporters. “We want consumers learning about the advisors on the page and choosing the advisor that resonates the best with them as a consumer.”
ATC is also adding new IC models into its OnlineExpress tool, allowing a parent agency to have microsites, which the team called “child sites,” for its ICs working under them.
The OnLocation program has also expanded after being relaunched earlier this year. It’s currently three times the size of the previous program, with 33 DMC partners in 65 different destinations featured.
KORE, the flagship training program that’s available for all TRAVELSAVERS and NEST advisors, is also growing. Kathryn Mazza-Burney, the CSO at ATC, told reporters that it would launch to Canadian members within the next 30 days, and a luxury component is going to be added shortly after exclusively for those affluent advisors.
“People want to get into the travel business, they just don’t know where to start,” Mazza-Burney said, adding that KORE is designed to help solve that problem.
The program just had its 100th person graduate and the team has placed with an agency inside of its network. Most of its users are brought into the program either through a member agency that wants to train a new hire, or through digital ads on Facebook, Google, or Instagram.
“It has gone exceptionally well for us,” Mazza-Burney said.
Hotel program update
ATC has been focusing on growing its hotel program. As of this week, the program included 1,100 hotels around the world, all in the luxury segment, a 20% year-over-year growth. Aside from the properties themselves, the hotel program allows members to offer exclusive amenities that the team says add another $1,000 per stay to the value of client vacations. Those amenities include room upgrades, breakfast, early and late checkout, and more.
Ed Donaldson, the VP of Sales at ATC who helps lead the hotel program, told reporters that the team doesn’t ask for discounted rates. Instead, it asks partners to add those amenities that appeal to luxury travelers who aren’t bargain shopping.
This year, the ATC hotel program welcomed the additions of new properties from Raffles, One&Only, and Waldorf Astoria.
“We shoot for strategic growth with unique, authentic, and boutique properties that are in demand among affluent travelers,” Donaldson said.
Looking ahead, ATC is planning on adding additional options, including villas, residences, and wellbeing properties, that Donaldson said cater to luxury clients. He also added that the group is on track to meet its 20% growth goal again for 2024, another step in its wish to get to 2,000 properties worldwide.
AI has invaded the travel industry since the launch of ChatGPT and other programs earlier this year and last year. ATC executives this week stressed the need to add AI tech to its member tools to help them grow alongside the technology, instead of competing against it.
AI capabilities are being added to its SocialConnect, tripXpress, and Onlinexpress tools. The goal with the additions is to save advisors time, one of the resources that most ATC members are short of, Mazza added.
New sustainability partner
This week, ATC announced a new partnership with Trees4Travel, a U.K.-based environmental organization that plants trees on behalf of users so as they travel, they can offset their environmental impact.
ATC is the first agency network in North America to partner with Trees4Travel and has so far planted almost 2,100 trees as part of the partnership. Close to 80 trees will be planted to offset carbon emissions from the ATC Symposium this week.