executive vice president of product management and tour management
What is your key strategy for this year, and why?
As a company, Collette is extremely focused on guest centricity. We’re interested in how consumers are changing from years past — how they buy, how they shop and the experiences they are looking for. We know that many guests want customized products and want to be reassured that the value of the tour is top notch. In the past, we didn’t encounter a guest who had access to online reviews and comparison models.
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace, and why they decided to launch them now?
We continue to focus on all of our tour product styles (including classic, spotlights and explorations). There are significant developments on our explorations line of small group tours, including a third product offering in Iceland, where we’ve witnessed significant demand over the last few months. We called on our strong relationships with vendors in the destination to create this product in a streamline fashion. We’re also launching product in Japan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka as a result of emerging trend reports for 2017.
Can you take us behind the scenes? How do you determine which new destinations to go into next?
A great deal of research goes into determining whether a destination will work in the market. We have a dedicated team to comb through market and consumer research, interview tour managers and gather information from the sales team who are in the field every day. We seek feedback from travel agents to determine what they are seeing and hearing in terms of demand. Having a gut instinct about trending destinations is also a major part of the equation.
Once you decide to go into a new place, what do you do to create a product that’s ready for today’s consumer?
There is research to be done in the destination in terms of pricing and vendors. We have to do our homework up front to establish what will work on tour. Once a destination is vetted, the team begins to look at ratings of hotels, experiences, inclusions and dining. We do this to be the eyes and ears for the guest so that they don’t have to. We’re also working to develop more choices on tour so that guests are able to customize their travel preferences.
Are there any key challenges this year for your business?
We’re coming off a year of terror, which does affect bookings, so we’re focused on providing diverse product to all seven continents, to appeal to many different travelers through their agents.
Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
We’re seeing record growth in our numbers despite recent happenings. Our explorations traveler is a much more immersive and experienced traveler, and it has allowed us to offer product in regions like Peru and Bolivia while still expanding our lines in the United States and Canada. We’re looking forward to continued growth in hot destinations like Iceland, Norway, and Portugal.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2017?
We know that agents are faced with information overload every day from many different suppliers. We recognized the importance of providing information and support in a concise manner. With tools like our e-learning platform, annual FAM trips, monthly webinars, informative brochures, and the largest sales team in the industry — we provide training and support for our travel agent partners to ease their workload and maximize their sales. Collette boasts many product advantages, including our “cancel for any reason” travel protection plan, and private sedan service to and from the airport, as a way for agents to promote “worry-free” travel for their clients. We want our agent partners to shine when placing their client on the perfect trip to ensure that those clients return satisfied and ready to book with their agent again.