A big reason for Worden Travel Service's success in selling to the
upscale Hawaii traveler, according to Barry Slavin, president of
the Walnut Creek, Calif., agency, is because "we avoid the
Instead of the hard-sell technique, he says, his agents explain
to clients the difference between a room and a suite, a hotel vs. a
condo, a beachfront room vs. a regular room and an upgrade in
rental car category. "We close sales by virtue of providing good
information and working within the traveler's perceptions," he
Agents who assume that clients who have money don't care about
value are making a big mistake, according to Slavin. "Quite the
opposite," he says. "Our upscale clients don't mind spending money,
but they want to know what they're going to get for it. In our
agency, we treat other people's money as if it's our own. We let
our clients know we're selling quality, not extravagance."
Slavin, who says that 70% of his Hawaii business is repeat,
urges agents who want to develop luxury Hawaii business to deal
only with reliable, quality vendors. Among those his agency
regularly works with are Creative Leisure (800-426-6367) and Hawaii
Having a good relationship with his regular vendors helps the
agency's staffers stay on top of developments in Hawaii. "When
something new happens, they let us know," he says. "We also attend
seminars and have vendors come to our office to do presentations
for the staff."
Slavin also stages presentations for his clients as part of what
he calls the Atrium Series. "These are presentations held in the
atrium of the office building where we're located, and which we
started doing about a year and a half ago. We invite clients by
direct mail and advertising, and have vendors come and make
To reinforce the theme of the evening, Slavin says that whenever
the agency does a Hawaii presentation, he makes sure to wear an
eye-catching Hawaiian shirt, which not only sparks interest in the
garment but in the destination as well.
Ann Halsey-Smith, owner of Halsey Smith Travel Ltd. of La Jolla,
Calif., also believes that upscale clients are just as interested
in good values as are midlevel travelers. Working closely with such
vendors as Classic Hawaii (800-221-3949) and Creative Leisure has
been "a real plus for both me and my upmarket clients," says
"Nowadays, I no longer book Hawaii air travel direct, but always
go through my suppliers. And because my suppliers have negotiated
such good air fares, I can even offer my luxury clients better
rates on first class air fares. In fact, I just generally use tour
operators exclusively, instead of making arrangements 'piecemeal'
as I used to," she says.
One of the things that's altered her way of booking has been the
change in how upscale travelers view package travel, says
Halsey-Smith. "Years ago, there was a lot of resistance to packages
by luxury travelers, but that's no longer true, because they now
recognize they're getting a good product and value."
Halsey-Smith reminds agents that because of all the special
deals in Hawaii nowadays, they have a wonderful opportunity to
convert mid-level travelers to upscale clients. "I've had a number
of families, for example, who used to stay in condos in Hawaii and
are now trading up and staying at top hotels."
In addition to working with good suppliers, Halsey-Smith says
her membership in Allied Percival International (817 870-0300) has
been a big help in allowing her to give her luxury clients great
values. "Membership in API lets me book top properties for my
luxury clients at preferred rates," she says.
The marketing organization, which focuses on the upscale travel
market, currently has more than 200 travel agent members from
across the country. Agencies seeking to become members must apply
to API and then go through an approval process.
Halsey-Smith stays on top of developments in Hawaii by visiting
as often as she can. She also keeps her clients informed when
there's something new to report by sending them a newsletter when
she gets back from her trip.
By giving her luxury Hawaii clients attentive service and taking
the time to search out good values, Halsey-Smith says she's been
rewarded with referrals that have netted her many new clients, not
just in her own geographical area, but across the country.