|Roland Largay (second from left) poses with Gregg Michel, president, Crystal Cruises (left); Paul Largay, co-owner and president, Largay Travel (right); and Bill Smith, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Crystal cruises (far right).|
Roland Largay, founder, co-owner and CEO of Waterbury, CT-based Largay Travel entered into eternal rest this week. In 2008, he told us about his career when Travel Agent named him a Leader in Luxury. Here is the story:
Back in 1969, Largay was ready for a change from his duties as vice president of sales at family-owned Anchor Fasteners, a nuts-and-bolts business. When a friend approached him to be a partner in an office selling real estate, insurance and travel, Largay replied that he wanted to be his own boss and negotiated to buy the travel agency portion of the business. “Within two months, I’d sold more than he had sold the previous two years,” said Largay.
He attributed his quick success to countless family business discussions around the dinner table when he was growing up, to his business degree and to his passion for travel and love of people. “To be successful selling luxury travel, you have to feel comfortable selling the product,” said Largay. “You can’t feel intimidated. You need to know the ships inside out.” He noted that his best business came from referrals.
Largay Travel is one of the founding members of Virtuoso Travel. “Joining Virtuoso was the best business decision I ever made,” said Largay. He served as Chairman Emeritus of the Virtuoso Member Advisory Board.
Largay noted that there had been a shift of sorts, with a number of the agency’s clients changing their bookings from big luxury lines to mid-market lines like Princess and Holland America.
“I don’t think luxury travel is bulletproof,” said Largay, referencing the declining economy. “We’re not waiting for customers to come in. We’re being proactive by making phone calls, sending out specialized mailings and partnering with suppliers to mount shows.”
Largay has found Virtuoso to be very helpful during the economic downturn. He cited advice from Virtuoso, such as developing your staff, managing your risk exposure and exploring public-relations possibilities.
“The dollar is getting strong—it’s stronger against the euro and the (South African) rand than it’s been the last six months. It’s true for Australia as well,” he said.
Largay also believed in keeping things fresh. “For the last 10 years, our group travel department has been organizing cruises with a local radio personality,” said Largay. “This year, we’ve changed that and we’re offering a Tauck California wine lands tour with this same personality and it’s selling very well.”
Largay was always a traveler. Upon graduating from college, he took a three-month deluxe American Express trip through Europe. “I’ve lost count of the number of cruises—well over a hundred,” he said. Largay has served on the Royal Viking Advisory Board, as well as being a member of the Cunard Inner Circle, the Abercrombie & Kent Connoisseurs Club and the Crystal Cruise Platinum Club.
Although the soft-adventure side of the business is overseen by Largay Travel’s co-owner and president, Paul Largay (Roland’s nephew), Roland Largay is no stranger to African safaris, having been on 27 of them. When it comes to delivering on the safari experience, Largay considered Micato Safaris to be the best of the best.
Largay was a fan of specialist programs and he himself was a Crystal Cruise Specialist. “With Virtuoso, you have to be a certified specialist before they’ll give you leads,” he said.
Largay advised travel agents to seek employment with agencies selling luxury travel: “It’s the best way to learn, whether you stay with the agency or eventually strike out on your own.”