Matthew Upchurch takes a look at the luxury travel marketplace
with Travel Weekly contributing editor Carla Hunt. API Travel
Consultants is an association of 227 independent luxury travel
TW: Can you give us a profile of today's
Upchurch: It has never been harder to profile
luxury travelers. The good news is that there has never been more
affluence and spending power; the bad news is that the affluent
market has never been so fragmented. Its range includes women of
independent means (the single largest group) who often favor
cruises; second honeymooners who also cruise, but love celebrating
with a barge or balloon trip or a cooking school course; escapists
who can afford to leave the kids at home and escape to beach
resorts, spas or golf courses, and the "cultured pearls" -- who are
likely to take adult education courses or go to theater and
concerts regularly -- who love the learning experience of
TW: Is the luxury travel market growing?
Upchurch: With its magnitude -- a huge increase
alone in the number of million-dollar households -- the luxury
market can no longer be considered just a niche market. And growth
will continue to come from the baby boomers for whom travel is an
important part of who they and their children are. They have built
travel in as a lifestyle, and not just for R&R but for
The future challenge for the agent selling into an even bigger
affluent market is twofold: to deal with an increasingly
better-traveled client, and to deal with travelers who have so much
access to information. If you present yourself as an expert, you
had better be an expert.
TW: What do you consider the leading trend in
today's travel market?
Upchurch: The overriding characteristic is that
people want to travel with a purpose, be it physical activity or
exercising the mind. They have moved away from just wanting to
observe to wanting to participate.
TW: Have you any tips on how travel agents can
reach out to this growing market?
Upchurch: The two keys to getting to this
market are personal communications for which direct mail, letters
and personal contact are still the most effective methods; and
developing personal relationships -- joining clubs and
organizations -- to be in the right environments to meet the right
Further, agents must read constantly and broadly, for the
affluent market will be picking up ideas from major travel and
other consumer magazines, TV travel shows, Web sites and more.
Additionally, agents should specialize in a destination or
product, because one travel consultant can't know everything. But
he or she can reach out and pool knowledge with those in the same
agency or with other agencies, just as we have done at API.
Above all, travel sellers have to develop an understanding of
what motivates the affluent traveler, such as the importance to
them of their time and the importance of enhancing that time with