What is your key strategy for this year, and why?
We recognized back in August that the U.S. market was ready to travel to Europe en masse again and so we put a huge effort into trade support and development. For our premium escorted journeys program, we put a strong focus on destinations such as Iberia, Scandinavia, UK and Ireland, Italy and eastern Europe.
With Luxury Gold we went wider and introduced our worldwide program, adding Indochina, Australasia and a big expansion in South America. For both brands we’ve also seen a dramatic rise in domestic travel within the U.S., and Americans are also buying Canada and South America. This will be our biggest year ever in the U.S. market, so it looks like our positioning was successful.
What are your newest destinations or products?
Our newest destinations are coming about because guests want to explore more. They want to get off-the-beaten track and head to destinations their friends haven’t been. At Insight and Luxury Gold, we have an incredibly high proportion of guests who are repeat travelers, and they ask us to keep offering new destinations so that they can travel with us again. This year we launched Southeast Asia, India and more of South America because they asked us to. We are very attuned to what our guests ask for and with our small group sizes we can launch destinations that they might not even know they want to go to yet — but they will when they hear about it.
How do you determine which new destinations to go into next?
It always starts with guest feedback. If there is enough demand for a new destination, we then research everything there is to know about it. We talk to locals, and enlist the support of the top minds in the travel business to really understand what makes it tick. We make sure that the destination can offer what guests expect when traveling with Insight: fantastic food, interesting locals, engaging experiences and incredible hotels in stunning locations. If it meets our rigorous demands, then we spend over a year in development, making sure that every detail of the itinerary is considered so that guests have a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience and get to the heart of the new destination.
When going in to a new place, how do you create product?
We know that our guests don’t want to feel like every other tourist. They want to go behind the scenes in places, delve deeper. They want to meet the locals, laugh and enjoy themselves. They want to feel like they have a great balance of free time and experiencing the key sights: guests no longer want to watch the sights go by through the window, they want to explore destinations with experts to make it easy for them. Travel is about connecting people, and our guests want to meet locals and have fun doing it. They want to learn more about the destinations they are traveling in by immersing themselves in every aspect of the destination’s culture: the food, wine, art, architecture, scenery and anything that makes that destination unique. We introduce our guests to people who can bring every aspect of that culture to life, so that they finish each day of their tour knowing that there is no way that they could have found that on their own.
Are there any key challenges this year for your business?
We work to get our voice heard through the 24/7 negative news media. Travel trade partners are integral to our business, and we work together to make the good news heard, too.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2017?
The U.S. travel agent is our number-one priority, and the first thing we cover at all of our strategic meetings. Working with our important partners is in Insight’s DNA — and we are very pleased to have solid relationships across the travel agent community. We’ve added four new district sales managers in 2017 whose sole focus is working with our agency partners. This expansion is part of The Travel Corporation’s commitment and expansion on the east coast that we will be celebrating in May in New York City.