Even in difficult economic times, there is a segment of the market that will always be looking for a luxurious vacation. Finding those prospects and selling them on a trip can mean big commissions for the agent and a potential long-term relationship with a recession-proof client. According to data released at the American Express Publishing Luxury Summit 2008, there are now more than 9 million people in the U.S. with a net worth of $1 million or more. And, like everyone else, those people need vacations.
One of the key things to remember is that there is no typical luxury consumer. They range in age, background and demographics. Many of today’s luxury consumers are from practical middle-class backgrounds. They want to spend money, but they want value. This is how they obtained their wealth to begin with. Give them value-added items such as breakfasts and transfers from the airport.
Who Has the Money?
It’s hard to tell just who the wealthy are these days. For the most part, the era of the ostentatious, wealthy traveler is gone. They are playing it down, being less conspicuous. Today’s young and wealthy person wants to appear “normal,” not arrogant and stuck-up—contrary to the images of the young, rich and out-of-control that we see in the tabloids.
Look at Generation Y. This group, born between 1983 and 1997, has grown up having access to what they want because they know how to get it cheap on eBay. They don’t hesitate getting something they want and they have tremendous buying power. Don’t assume because they are young, they don’t have money. Trying to “sell them down” to an all-inclusive or mass-market brand can be a costly error. These people are hedge-fund managers who want to spend $15,000 to $25,000 on a vacation.
Of course, what this means is that you might not always know who your prospective wealthy clients might be. You’ll have to dig a little deeper as you speak with them to find out if they are affluent travelers. How do you do this? Ask questions—find out where they spent their last trip. What is their preferred hotel brand and cruise ship brand?
Remember, these clients know a lot. They are on the Internet and they are also comparing notes with their peers. They will question you along the way. They’ll go online to compare hotels or they’ll get advice from their friends who have just returned from their vacation. They will call you to tell you what they have found out.
Rules of Engagement
People can buy virtually anything online, but they still choose to shop in stores because they enjoy the ritual of purchasing something expensive. Think of going to Tiffany’s or Cartier, of being greeted by name, being given a glass of champagne, sitting in a comfortable chair in a sophisticated environment. Who wouldn’t want to do that? This is what they are paying for.
And that is what luxury clients expect from their travel professional— to be kept engaged and involved in the process of planning the trip. If they can walk away excited every time they interact with you, you are providing them with value.