Vice President of sales and business development
What is your key strategy for this year, and why?
In 2017, our strategy is very focused on Europe and South America. Keytours Vacations, defined as a specialty operator, offers “Smart Luxury” personalized FIT, themed vacations; Small Group Journeys and custom groups handcrafted by our travel experts with one call. We also reinforce that Keytours Vacations can build a complete personalized trip, including rail, ferries, car rental, private shore excursions and private guides.
Smart Luxury includes an educational experience — such as making olive oil or visiting the Ferrari factory — which after dining and sightseeing is most important for upscale guests.
What are your newest destinations or products?
Small Group Journeys expanded to all Europe from a few select countries last year, providing more choices for private sightseeing and experiences on personalized, custom FITs, specialty hotels and apartment groups. We have invested in the religious and educational market, as well as seen growth from culinary and corporate retreats.
We have introduced new FIT and group tours in the U.S., as many clients who traveled with us to Europe and South America have expressed interest in the U.S. Given the current world situation, the U.S. can offer wonderful experiences. It’s like water, when bucket is full or has cracks, the water will find somewhere else to go. Airfares are reasonable and there is inventory we have negotiated at the right price. Keytours has now been able to source the same kind of experience in the U.S. as we have in Europe and South America.
How do you determine which new destinations to go in to next?
Trends are like horses, they are easier to ride in the direction they are going. We ask our past passengers, and look at the trends. Air capacity is very important as one has to have good fares, with airline contracts and more importantly, inventory. One has to have demand to launch a new destination, so past passengers and travel agent demand are a strong factor. The final decision is also based on the data we get from the destination — average daily spend, the number of U.S. guests and seasonality.
Once you decide to go a new place, what do you do to create a product that’s ready for today’s consumer?
When determining hotels, we check the available inventory in the small boutique and standard hotels in order to offer guests unique amenities as added value and create a difference.We look at trends and subscribe to certain reports — luxury travel trends require “5 C’s: Cuisine, Culture, Customization, Community and Consistency.” Europe and South America can provide these for Keytours’ type of product.
Are there any key challenges this year for your business?
Airline pricing is a challenge. The booking window is later and European and Asian markets book space early. We have to be harder in negotiations to get the inventory at our price point. Then, there is trepidation to travel to certain countries. Keytours Vacations recently had an educational trip with 15 agents that spent three nights in Istanbul and three nights Athens. Following the trip, an attendee said: “The trip was wonderful — beyond any expectations — especially Turkey where everyone was friendly, food and accommodation fantastic, and history and culture exotic and sumptuous, never scared for a moment — we want to send people there.”
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2017?
Less is more. We have created a Gold Key Club for agents who want to work with Keytours Vacations, offering more commissions on packages and components and agent rewards program, which also gives agents $150 on their next booking. We conduct surveys to know how to communicate and service the agents in the way they want to be serviced, and then they can service their client. We have an awards programs and improved technology, especially mobile applications. Travel agents deal with the same Keytours Vacations travel expert, meaning they are not a booking number. We prepare detailed itineraries for the agents and make them look good to the client.