Selling Luxury Travel: Tools of the Trade

Association Membership Benefit Agents

Martha Gaughen, owner of Sterling Travel in Atlanta, finds great benefits in her agency's membership in API, ranging from opportunities for top-of-the-line fam trips at reasonable cost to a constant information exchange and learning from other members.

"Travel agency survival and growth in the upscale market may depend on joining with other agents in an association or consortium, and there are others besides API," she says.

"We all need the chance to network with buyers and sellers and develop pools of expertise."

Rina Anoussi agrees with Gaughen, and her company, the Travel Business, located in New York City, is a member of Tzell Travel Specialists, a consortium of independently owned agencies.

"The benefits of membership are not only for information sharing," she said, "but for volume of deluxe product sales, because lots of doors open to agents with a big volume of sales behind them.

"Association membership gives an agency the leverage needed to sell in the deluxe marketplace."

Luxury Adventure Sales

Here are some tips on selling luxury adventure travel.

  • Educate yourself. Start by reading consumer publications on specialty travel and look for special sections and articles in the trade press. Read as much as you can to stay ahead of trends in destinations and new activities.
  • For nature or culture adventure destinations and activity-oriented vacations such as biking, trekking or hiking tours, choose a handful and dedicate yourself to learning about them and promoting them.
  • Experience the product. Nothing beats the kind of passionate selling that firsthand experience inspires.
  • Research suppliers. How long have they been in business? Do they operate their own trips? What are the qualifications of their tour leaders? Will the operator provide agent and consumer reference? Then cultivate supplier partnerships in the specialty areas you have targeted.
  • Network your community, and become active in local organizations. Cycling clubs, photo groups, wine clubs, museums and associations all can be sources of clients.
  • In General: A How-To List

    Here are some general tips on selling luxury travel.

  • Keep in touch with clients through personal correspondence or newsletters to highlight destinations and new products, and in turn remind them that you are there. Promote travel opportunities in short, snappy e-mails to on-line clients.
  • Look to corporate clients as a source of luxury leisure business; offer noontime presentations on your specialty to corporate clients.
  • Look at your own community: Do personal mailings; consider working with local merchants on promotion or direct-mail campaigns.
  • Send press releases to the travel section of the local newspaper promoting your expertise and special-interest opportunities.
  • In any advertising or promotional material, have an immediate call to action, while appealing to clients' discriminating tastes and their need to do something few others either know about or can afford.
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