Onsite: Classic Puts Extra Emphasis on Ultra-Luxury

Classic Vacations hosted its top-producing travel agents and agencies at The Kahala Resort & Hotel in Honolulu this weekend. At the confab, agents were updated on Classic's initiatives for 2008, which include putting an added emphasis on "ultra-high-end villas, private homes, chartered yachts and private jets," said Greg Bernd, vice president of sales for the luxury wholesaler. Classic's research shows that the luxury segment is growing by two to three times over other segments in the industry.

Bernd said that Classic has expanded into offering personal, private tours and excursions to its clients. Examples include river barging in France, hot-air balloon rides over Tuscany and private shopping trips in Florence. Luxembourg has also been added to Classic's Europe line, as have private tours in Croatia and castle tours of Ireland. New transportation products include the Orient-Express train and island transfers in Greece.

The Classic Vacations Travel Marketing Weekend also gave agents the chance to bid adieu to Classic's longtime leader, Ron Letterman, who is retiring, and to welcome in Tim MacDonald, who was named CEO in April. MacDonald, who has strong experience in branding and in travel, told agents in attendance that Classic will raise the level of service offered by its reservations staff even higher in 2008. The company is also investing in a new technology platform that will be rolled out by the end of the year, he said.

MacDonald said that Classic was happy to have reunited with Virtuoso in a preferred supplier relationship. The two groups had taken a three-and-a-half-year "hiatus" from working together after Virtuoso called into question comments made about the future of the retail travel agency model by executives of Classic parent InterActiveCorp, which also owns Expedia, Hotwire, Hotels.com and other online travel companies, and was later renamed Expedia, Inc. (RT)

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