Jean Cartier Sauleau opened her agency in
1985 at the ripe old age of 28. Although young, she was hardly a
neophyte when it came to the travel industry. Shed already worked
in guest relations at a theme park, as a travel director at Intrav,
as a bookkeeper at Mexicana Airlines and as a counselor for a
career helped her determine how she planned to shape her agency
The agency, which
was then known as Cartier Travel and based in St. Louis, has since
changed locations and names. Sixth Star Travel in Plantation, Fla.,
still caters to the same audience -- luxury travelers interested in
value and service.
certified travel counselor and master cruise counselor, over the
years has painstakingly tracked changes in luxury demographics to
ensure the agency remains at the top of its game.
When choosing where
in St. Louis to open the agency, for instance, she selected a
location in an upscale neighborhood. Initially, Sauleau captured
the business of an older clientele but also kept an eye on younger,
affluent people moving into the area.
As people get older
you have to rebuild your client list, Sauleau said. Agents have to
understand the needs of young luxury travelers, she added. This
audience may shop at Target because it offers good value, but that
doesnt mean Target shoppers eschew buying luxury
Theyre looking for
service and looking to be pampered, she said. They may have
traveled a lot in business, but they want guidance maneuvering
around leisure travel.
much of her guidance on cruising, which accounts for 50% of Sixth
consortium, Virtuoso, helps Sixth Star offer value, she said, with
complimentary membership in the Virtuoso Voyager Club, which adds
perks such as guided shore events, a night in a luxury hotel and
Now, Sauleau is
equally at ease dealing with world cruisers in their 90s and
travelers in their 20s who spend as much as $20,000 on their
Were seeing younger
people wanting to do nicer trips, she said. The younger clientele
that is looking for that luxury experience is normally impressed by
gourmet dining and fine wines and is willing to pay extra for
because younger clients still are earning income, theyre not afraid
to spend money, she said. They often upgrade to lavish
accommodations, such as penthouse suites. Conversely, she noted,
many retirees will sail on world cruises but book much lower-priced
Sauleau also makes
sure she and her agents guide clients in the right direction when
choosing a ship.
Unless your client
stays in the suite during the entire cruise, you cant sell a luxury
clientele on a mass-market ship -- even if its the most beautiful
suite in the world, Sauleau said. Not everybody belongs on every
ship. You have to know your products and who belong on what
Sauleau was able to
distinguish the finer nuances between cruise segments long before
she opened her agency. At Intrav, as a travel director escorting
groups, she experienced cruising.
While with an
Intrav group aboard a ship in the fleet of the now-defunct Royal
Viking Line, she met her husband, Christian Sauleau. He was then a
food-and-beverage manager and is now executive vice president of
operations for Radisson Seven Seas Cruises.
Within a weeks time
we were talking about marriage, she said.
With her husband
based in Florida, Sauleau in 2002 decided to relocate the agency to
the Sunshine State. She still operates a two-person office in St.
Louis and employs an agent in Los Angeles. Three people, including
Sauleau, staff the Florida agency.
the travel agencys headquarters to Florida, Sauleau said it has
doubled its business. Sauleau attributes Sixth Stars growing
success to the effort she and her agents make to ensure that
clients get the most for their money, but not at the expense of the
important is we all need to create the added value instead of
lowering the price, she said, especially in the luxury market.
People are looking to get the most out of their money.
Selling is the
operative word, Sauleau said. In order to create a dream vacation
for the client, an agent must know how to sell.
Thats why this
industry keeps falling back on price, she said. Theres a lack of
When all is said
and done, an agent must match the client to the product to create a
dream. You can jump in and help them build that dream, Sauleau
Agent Life reporter Claudette Covey, send e-mail[email protected].
Claire Schoeder, a
U.K. specialist at Atlanta-based Century Travel, designed a
Scotland itinerary that highlights the countrys rich cultural
history. The trip includes visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh. This
itinerary gives travelers a wonderful taste of all Scotland has to
offer, Schoeder said.
Clients check into
the Scotsman in Edinburgh, a 68-room property in an old newspaper
building. Recommended, must-see sites include Edinburgh Castle, the
Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Travelers dine at Haldanes, located in a Georgian townhouse in the
citys New Town.
After renting a car
at the Waverly Train Station, clients head to Inverness. The route
will take them through Stirling, Perth and Pitlochry. In Inverness,
they stay at Bunchrew House Hotel, a 17th-century Scottish mansion
amid landscaped gardens and woodland. I recommend dining there at
least one of the two nights, said Schoeder. Inverness is only a few
miles away, and many clients prefer to dine out of the hotel one
night -- especially in the summer when the long daylight hours make
driving a bit easier.
A drive to John
oGroats and Mey, where the late Queen Mothers Scottish castle is
located. This is a beautifully scenic drive, and the roundtrip will
take most of the day, said Schoeder.
A trip to the Isle
of Skye takes in a variety of sites, including Beauly, for a visit
to the ruins of a priory. The travel time is not long, but there is
quite a bit to see on the way, Schoeder said. The Loch Ness Monster
exhibition at Dumnadrochit is a hoot, and the Urquharat Castle is
one of the most photographed sights in Scotland. Clients stay at
Kinloch Lodge, home of Lord and Lady MacDonald. Breakfast and
dinner are included during the stay.
Clients visit the
Museum of Island Life; Flora MacDonalds grave at Kilmuir; the ruins
of Duntulm Castle, home of the chiefs of the clan MacLeod; the
Talisker Distillery; and Armadale, with its Clan Donald Visitor
Center and the partially ruined Armadale Castle.
partner is a NoteWorthy resource
Some things are better left to an
No one knows that
better than Claire Schoeder, a U.K. specialist at Century Travel in
She counts on a
destination-management services firm to help create memorable,
one-of-a-kind trips for her clients.
London-based NoteWorthy Events, an on-site partner of Virtuoso, has
never failed to deliver on a particular event or service, no matter
what the clients special interest.
I use them for
everything from high-end transfers between airports to wonderfully
unique private tours in London and the surrounding areas, she
NoteWorthy Events employees have a lot of experience and knowledge,
take the time to learn about clients interests and craft tours to
fit their interests.
Schoeder had clients who were World War II buffs, and NoteWorthy
Events arranged for local experts to take the travelers on a
private tour of Winston Churchills Cabinet War Rooms.
The more esoteric
the request, said Susie Worthy, managing director of NoteWorthy
Events, the more fun she and her staff have with the request. What
we love is a challenge, she said.
One couple wanted
to see Englands crop circles, geometric patterns of matted-down
grain that some people believe were created by
We found the
crop-circle expert of England, and they rented a helicopter and
flew over the circles, Worthy said.
Worthy, who founded
the company in 1986, chalks up part of NoteWorthys success to her
skill as an inveterate networker. It all comes down to
She noted that
there are some agents who believe that they can take care of all
the details themselves. As in everything in life, you have to find
a partner who can press the right buttons and get the job done for
you, Worthy said.
In the final
analysis, she said, its all about getting the details
Worthy takes a line
from Sir Henry Royce, founder of Rolls-Royce, when defining her
Small things make
perfection. But perfection is no small thing.
The pros and the
By Millicent Lee
Advances in technology have made it
increasingly possible to work from home. In running a home-based
travel agency, I have found telecommuting and the travel industry
to be very compatible. I have also found that more and more people
are doing this.
working away from the conventional workplace, enables someone to
have a home office and communicate via computer technology. It
enables people to work remotely and gives them options on how to
manage their work and their life.
be a valuable business perk -- not just for the travel agency but
also for staff and independent contractors. It gives the host
agency more flexibility and is advantageous as follows:
flexibility. Creating a balance between work and life allows for
quality time alone and with family and friends.
commuting time and expense. There are no more worries about
inclement weather, car troubles, sick days or getting to work on
Issuing tickets and invoices can be done remotely, so
agents dont need to rush to a specific site to print tickets and
and administration costs. Telecommuters usually are self-employed
or independent contractors. Therefore, they are responsible for
their own benefits and taxes.
important issues. Telecommuting enables agents to concentrate on
the business, not office distractions.
pool. A potentially attractive benefit is a bigger, and perhaps
more talented and qualified, workforce that is available because
they can work remotely. Location is almost irrelevant.
However, there are
some disadvantages to telecommuting:
between home and office can disappear quickly. A person needs to be
focused and disciplined in order to make it work effectively. Work
sometimes can extend beyond traditional work hours; that may be
comfortable for some but not for others. The agency may need to
assist with office equipment and maintenance.
can be expensive. Home-based agents need sufficient Internet
bandwidth and dedicated phone lines. It is important to establish a
good working relationship with the host agency, spelled out ahead
of time, so there are no misunderstandings later. A certain amount of trust is crucial in making this
business relationship run smoothly.
need to be taken into consideration. Personal contact and
face-to-face conversations are essential and need to be worked into
an office schedule.
For my home-based
agency, the benefits of telecommuting outweigh the drawbacks of
working remotely. Its a way to have flexibility and viability in my
office and at the same time, improve satisfaction, morale and
Kaufman has been a retailer for nearly 25 years and has owned her
own agency since 1990. She has operated a home-based agency since
2000. E-mail her at[email protected].
liability issues with independent agents
Demand a personal guarantee -- this gives access to personal assets
and/or an unconditional letter of credit in favor of the host.
Although not previously considered, host agencies are making these
requirements more often these days.
Consider fidelity bonding, which could be paid for by the host or
independent contractor, and add a theft rider covering nonemployees
to your agencys comprehensive liability insurance. For both the
fidelity bond and theft rider, ask the insurer what the real
recovery would be under a variety of scenarios of credit-card fraud
or unauthorized credit-card usage by a contractor. Agencies should
be aware that payouts on fidelity bonding are usually contingent on
Consider requiring contractors to have comprehensive general
liability insurance of their own, and if any independent
contractors have their own staffers, the contractors -- just like
the host -- need to look at obtaining fidelity bonding and a theft
rider. This is for their own protection and provides compensation
in the event of a loss.
Require contractors to add riders to their homeowners insurance to
cover occasional business use. Claims may result if visiting
clients are hurt while on a contractors premises. If the contractor
has no coverage, there is a risk clients will seek compensation
from the host agency.
Require independent contractors to maintain their own
errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance. If they are listed on
your policy, verify with your E&O provider that their method of
payment and the type of entity doing business (individual
affiliated under contract with the host, as opposed to one
corporation in a relationship with another) meets with the
providers approval and that you are not considered a reseller of
insurance. Another option is to check the National Association of
Commissioned Travel Agents special rate with Berkely for
contractors buying their own insurance.
Sources: Travel attorneys Rose Hache
and Jeff Miller