|Left to right: Freddy Charles Reinert and Jaclyn Sienna India // Photo by Sienna Charles|
Even in the age of the Internet, running a brick-and-mortar storefront can be a way for agencies to distinguish themselves in the eyes of their clients, said Jaclyn Sienna India and Freddy Charles Reinert, co-founders of luxury travel agency Sienna Charles in a recent visit to Travel Agent’s New York offices.
Founded in 2008 in New York City out of the founders’ apartments, Sienna Charles opened a storefront in Palm Beach, Florida, last February. The location runs seasonally from December through May.
“We saw an untapped market in Palm Beach among the very wealthy clientele that flies back and forth to New York,” said India. Operating the storefront seasonally allows the travel agents to follow these “snowbirds” to their summertime haunts and gives the founders time to travel in order to experience the destinations they sell firsthand.
Having a storefront gives their agency a face and gives them validity, said Reinert. “With some agencies, a client could be talking to someone in New York, or even in their pajamas,” Reinert said. “With a storefront you really have to know what you’re talking about, because with someone right there in front of you, you can’t just Google it or rely on a cheat sheet.”
Having a storefront can also provide a feeling of physical security and welcome. “It’s about showing the client that we can take care of you, like you’re being invited into our home,” said India. Sienna Charles spruces up a client visit with homey touches, like a glass of wine and, when the itinerary is finalized, a personalized coffee table book.
Reinert and India also make house calls to learn more about their clients. “A home visit can give that extra insight into who they are,” said India. “You can see who loves Burgundy wine, or who is wearing Ferragamo shoes. You can’t get that out of a questionnaire.”