For the home-based travel agents who specialize in luxury, this year’s Luxury Travel Expo in Las Vegas offered plenty of welcome news and insights. Perhaps most significant were the announcements from many of the major suppliers at the show that, after a difficult 2009, business is coming back around.
Phil Cappelli, director of national sales, Tauck World Discovery, said that the renowned tour operator is bouncing back from a rough start this year and that clients are going back to their old booking patterns of up to six to seven months in advance. Luxury Travel Expo was the perfect forum to relay the message that Tauck is “back in business,” Cappelli said, adding that “we’ve been around for 85 years so we were able to sustain a tough year—but now we are ready to go back to business as usual.”
That sentiment was echoed by Ken Pomerantz of MLT Vacations, who noted sales for Mexico are back to normal and, in fact, MLT has just added Los Cabos to its profile. “There was a definitely a decrease in sales to Mexico because of the whole H1N1 thing, but now people are going again,” he said. “Los Cabos is a going to be a huge sell for us because the destination has to so much to offer. Now that people are heading back to Mexico, we expect this destination to pick up fast.”
Another indicator that the travel industry is feeling more optimistic these days was the number of first-time exhibitors at this year’s expo. There were new destinations such as Croatia and Tanzania represented, while established destinations ranging from Antigua to South Africa used the event to bolster their images and educate agents on what they have to offer and how to sell them.
As Marc Cavaliere of South African Airways noted, “There is a lot that agents don’t know about South Africa, and one of them is how easy it is to become an expert of the destination. Hopefully, we get that message across at this show.”
Judging from initial response to the show—attendees were diligently “twittering” and updating Facebook with their thoughts—exhbitors and presenters at this year’s expo definitely got their message across.