Since joining Classic Vacations as CEO in April, Tim MacDonald has been hard at work fine tuning the services the luxury travel wholesaler offers to agents. Over the course of the next year, agents can expect to see subtle differences in the way the company operates, which MacDonald believes will result in more satisfied agents and clients.
MacDonald is quick to add that internal research already shows a high satisfaction rate among its agent and agency partners, but that doesn't mean all work is done. "We're always looking at new opportunities," MacDonald says. Classic Vacations recently added vacation options in St. Petersburg, Russia and Croatia, and is conducting a soft launch of its new Fiji product this month, with a full launch slated for December.
As for the aforementioned subtle differences in operation over the next year, MacDonald was reluctant to go into specifics. "Only because it will take some time to roll out these initiatives," he says. "If we have this same conversation a year from now, I'll be able to tell you exactly what we've done and you'll be able to measure the impact on travel agent customer satisfaction."
Return to Virtuoso
In the meantime, MacDonald, who came to Classic from fellow Expedia company Hotwire, is excited to discuss Classic's return to Virtuoso. Back in June, Virtuoso and Classic Vacations once again entered into a preferred supplier relationship, after a roughly three-year break following Classic Vacations' acquisition by Expedia in 2002. At the time, the break occurred because Virtuoso did not agree with the wholesaler having a relationship with a direct-to-consumer online parent.
MacDonald says the relationship was rekindled after representatives from both companies gave speeches at Valerie Wilson Travel's 25th anniversary celebration. "They were basically saying the same things about their thoughts on the luxury travel market and afterwards Greg [Bernd, vice president of sales for Classic] said, 'We really should be doing business together,' and Matthew [Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso] said, 'Let's get working on it,'" he explains.
Classic Vacations just returned from Virtuoso's Travel Mart, where it hosted a lunch with 225 agents. "We couldn't be happier with the warm reception that we received," MacDonald says. "We're such a perfect fit. The Virtuoso agents are the high-touch agents that we cater to."
In fact, it's that segment of agents that MacDonald sees growing. "What's been very clear to me is that the agents and agencies that are focused on high-touch service and delivering a luxury experience are the ones that are growing and doing very, very well," he says. "We see continued demand for that service and that's where Classic comes in—selling services that ensure a hassle-free experience."