Business flourishing, Abercrombie & Kent thanks agents

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Geoffrey Kent challenged agents to get clients to think beyond their bucket lists. Photo Credit: Eric Moya

CHICAGO -- The past two years have been a boon for Africa, Europe and many of the other destinations in Abercrombie & Kent's portfolio, the luxury tour operator told its top producers during its biennial A&K 100 Club meeting.

"Egypt and Jordan are back, ladies and gentlemen, and Morocco is on fire," Keith Baron, president of Abercrombie & Kent USA, said during his opening remarks for the two-day conference here at the Four Seasons.

Reinforcing Baron's assessment was Jean Bernard-Coudon, managing director for Morocco. "If it's on fire, it's mostly thanks to you," he said to the 168 agents in attendance, each of whom reached a minimum of $250,000 in A&K sales last year.

"North America has been a great contributor" to the company's Africa success, added John Round-Turner, A&K's regional sales and marketing director for East and Southern Africa.

With tourism numbers the highest they've been since the aftermath of 2010's Arab Spring uprising drove visitors away en masse, this is proving to be the "Egypt blossom year," said Amr Badr, managing director for Egypt, adding that post-election, the country's security is "solid."

Geoffrey Kent, A&K founder and CEO, told travel media that the company "kept a huge staff on" in Egypt in the years following the Arab Spring.

"This time a year ago we were going to sell one ship, because we thought [Egypt] was never going to recover," he said. "At the last minute I backed Amr, who said, 'Let's don't sell it.'"

In his opening remarks, Baron said that among the company's Europe offerings, Russia has been particularly strong, and its lower-priced Connections line, which predominantly focuses on Europe, is "really resonating with your clients," with bookings almost doubling this year. Last year, A&K revamped Connections to place more emphasis on boutique properties.

On the other end of the price spectrum, agents received updates on offerings such as Wings Over the World, which navigates its itineraries via chartered flights. A revamp is planned for Wings Over India, which A&K has offered since 2015. Toby Fenwick-Wilson discussed the company's Inspiring Expeditions offerings, led by Kent himself. Around the World With Geoffrey Kent, departing Oct. 18, is a $150,000, 25-day private-jet journey from Nicaragua to the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

In a series of 20-minute presentations, A&K's regional managing directors offered overviews of other destinations and shared updates on hotel inventory and attractions.

For example, during their presentation on China and Japan, Kath Fok and Gerald Hatherly referenced those countries' appearances in films such as "The Last Emperor," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and the anime classic "My Neighbor Totoro."  The pair also discussed itineraries that include lesser-visited destinations such as China's Fujian province and its distinctive, circular tulou dwellings.

Keith Sproule, executive director of A&K Philanthropy, offered updates on the company's outreach efforts across the globe, such as the Nakatindi Maternity Ward near Victoria Falls in Zambia, initiated by a donation from top producer Valerie Wilson Travel, and clean-water projects in Cambodia and Kenya.

In his opening remarks, Kent challenged agents to get clients to think beyond their bucket lists.

"What we have to do now is create an experience portfolio," he said. "When we have a client who's doing one trip, think then: What's going to be their second trip, and their third and their fourth trip? How can you build a portfolio?"

He also reiterated his gratitude for the attendees' support over the years and his trust in their expertise.

"We have nothing but travel experts in this room," Kent said. "We know more about travel in this room than anyone on Earth today. ... We cover travel from the first mile, which is you, to the last mile, which is A&K."

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