What is your key strategy for this year, and why?
Tailor-made FIT travel has always represented a significant portion of our business, and this year we have seen even more growth as a result of our enhanced focus. In response to requests from travel advisors, we are curating regional portfolios that highlight the very best customized experiences and hotels. Each is an insider’s guide, featuring iconic sites and places not on everyone’s radar, chosen by our local experts for their authentic character. These recommended itineraries highlight historic cities, can’t-miss sites — as well as hidden gems — and the finest hotels and restaurants.
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace, and why have you decided to launch them now?
We’ve focused on lesser-known destinations in Europe this year as part of our Connections Boutique Group Journeys; these include the Baltics, Sicily & Puglia, the Cotswolds and Iceland. Our goal is to immerse our guests into local life every day through a renewed focus on authentic interactions, boutique hotels and boutique connections.
Increased interest in luxury expedition cruising inspired us to expand our offering beyond Antarctica and the Arctic, and to include Japan’s islands.
Adding a new destination is often determined by changes to access and infrastructure. Cuba, for instance, presents challenges with limited infrastructure based on hotel quality and availability. Adding a new cruise journey allowed us to overcome this. Ethiopia has significantly improved infrastructure and luxury hotel offerings, making it more accessible for A&K’s caliber of group travel.
Can you take us behind the scenes? How do you determine which new destinations to go into next?
Foremost, we closely monitor interest expressed by past travelers in emerging destinations. We also continuously seek new opportunities during our vast exploratory travels, sending our product managers out to identify experiences that will be appealing to our guests. They carefully inspect luxury properties to be sure they meet our exacting standards and develop unique, authentically immersive experiences. We’re also fortunate to have our 52 local offices around the world to monitor changes that open new doors, such as new flights, boats, roads, etc.
Once you decide to go into a new place, what do you do to create a product that’s ready for today’s consumer?
Our local offices are constantly monitoring and vetting existing and new opportunities. They know our guests and what they expect, and how to deliver a seamless experience, giving travel advisors peace of mind that their clients will be well taken care of.
Are there any key challenges this year for your business?
Adventure cruising has been growing exponentially in Antarctica and the Arctic, attracting many larger cruise ships. Our challenge is to educate travel advisors about the advantages of small ship expedition cruising — and the A&K difference. Our guests do not sacrifice luxury for adventure. We charter the finest expedition ships to guarantee a luxurious home away from home, and we limit the group size to 199.
Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
The greatest luxury is time. We introduced Wings Over the World regional journeys to combine the advantages of A&K luxury small-group travel with the comfort and ease of privately chartered flights. Every minute saved flying between destinations means more time on the ground to experience them.
Each itinerary includes exclusive insider access experiences only possible for an intimate group. The group size reflects the size of the plane, from 13 in China and the Mediterranean, to 20 guests in Australia. These are particularly appealing to solo travelers.
Also, travelers are looking at the U.S. in a new light and renewed interest, resulting in a shift toward more domestic travel. This year we are launching a Luxury Tailor Made North America product line that offers the same type of insider access and carefully selected itineraries for which we are known in other parts of the world.