Finding the Luxury Niche

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We just hosted the annual Travel Industry Exchange in San Diego where top advisors sat in on panels to share their selling strategies. In the luxury track, we were fortunate to have Ken Neibaur from Worldview Travel and David Rubin from DavidTravel who spoke about the basics of entering the luxury sector of travel.

Ruthanne Terrero, CTC Vice President–Content/Editorial Director
Ruthanne Terrero, Vice President–Content/Editorial Director

Both panelists agreed that travel consultants in this category should establish themselves as luxury advisors with all of their branding communications, on social media, and with their business cards and e-mail signatures. If, for example, you’re visiting a city and can’t afford to stay at a luxury hotel, ask for a site inspection and take photos to post on Facebook or Instagram, said Neibaur. 

“The more that you can [represent] that segment, the more people will start to believe that you’ve got the credibility,” he said.

Listening to the client is vital, as is the way you respond to what you’re hearing, added Rubin. “It’s important to get to know the person. Ask them a lot of questions, and show them that you’re listening and responsive. Demonstrate that you’re as educated as much as possible so you can respond to a particular inquiry, or say, ‘I’m going to research that for you, I’d like to send you an e-mail and follow up with you on some ideas.’”

Another tip? Don’t assume affluent travelers walk around all the time sporting a lot of bling. In fact, they might be downright unassuming.

“Luxury travel isn’t about being a celebrity or rock star,” said Neibaur. “There’s a segment for that but that’s not the entire sector. Not everyone sees themselves as the luxury travel customer, but they are definitely consuming luxury travel.”

New trends for this market include longer trips and more far-flung destinations. For example, Rubin noted that many consumers can work remotely thanks to their mobile devices and, as a result, they’re booking more around-the-world vacations. “We’re also doing one-, two-, and three-month trips,” he added. Clients are also connecting travel with their personal interests and that opens the door to customizing an experience. Rubin suggests, for example, that if a client is interested in cooking, to try to get them into someone’s actual home to learn how to prepare country-style food. He has a client who is a doctor who loves going to medical museums; Rubin researches potential experiences for him around the world. Then there are the basics. “I’m always looking to pick up as much as I can about them, such as what type of coffee or cocktails do they like, to what type of pillow and mattress they like,” he said.

Neibaur said clients who may have once booked “vanilla” style trips are migrating to the more exotic. “People who have been to the Med and have done Paris and London are branching out,” he said. He’s getting requests for the Galapagos, Antarctica, Peru, Bhutan and Nepal. That suppliers are expanding into those markets helps a lot. “The luxury sector is there waiting for the customer, so we shouldn’t be afraid to suggest that they go to those places,” he said.

On a final note, getting your customers VIP treatment takes diligence, even if you’re a part of a luxury network. Tell the hotel about a client’s preferences and expectations when the booking is made, but do follow up a few weeks and again a few days before the client departs. “You have to make the effort to contact the hotel every time,” Neibaur said. “It takes a lot of work.”