Travel Leaders CEO Provides Update on Group’s Luxury Push

Ninan Chacko
Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko

With sales trending upward through the end of this year and into the next, Travel Leaders Group is continuing its investment in the luxury market, executives told Travel Agent and other media at the organization’s Elevate the Journey tradeshow in New York. In attendance were Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko, Senior Vice President, Hotel Division Mike Heflin and Senior Vice President, Travel Leaders Airline Relations Peter Vlitas.

“It’s been a really exciting year for growth, particularly in the luxury segment,” Chacko said, citing the group’s acquisition of major luxury brands like The Andrew Harper Travel Office and The Andrew Harper Alliance.

Chacko cited research showing that luxury travelers can spend up to six times more per trip, making them well-suited for travel agents, and that a change in values, particularly among the Millennial demographic, is also good news for travel sellers.

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“Millennials embrace travel as an essential part of their lifestyle, even more so than their older counterparts," Chacko said.

The group is also expanding its investment in hotels with new tools for its SELECT Hotels Program. These include new customizable, brand-integrated websites for Protravel, Tzell and ALTOUR that allow the brands to list hotels in the program, along with travel advisor contact information and tips related to the hotel and surrounding area.

The past month has also seen American Express relaunch its Gold Card, which ties in with the group’s new APEX program, Chacko said. APEX, which was announced at the EDGE Conference this summer, allows participating travel agents to book travel using their clients’ American Express Membership Rewards Points, earning commission when they do so. The program also includes The Travel Collection, a compilation of benefits and offers available to APEX-participating agents and their clients.

Looking ahead, the group’s next move is the launch of a new headquarters in New York City that will showcase Protravel and Tzell, the group’s two Travel Leaders Elite luxury brands.

“We’ve just begun our move to our new offices at 1633 Broadway,” said Chacko. “The space is fabulous and really belies the narrative of a travel agency as something in decline.”

That luxury focus plays to the core strength of travel agents, according to research introduced at the tradeshow. The latest travel trends survey shows that customers tend to book longer, more complex trips with travel agents.

“When consumers are investing significant amounts of time and money, they want the expertise of an advisor,” Chacko said.

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