The luxury segment has changed, and travel advisors need to keep up with the demands of their top clients, according to two luxury-travel experts.
The smartest luxury travel advisors are getting even smarter, Angie Licea, president of Global Travel Collection, a luxury division of Internova Travel Group, said after the group's conference in October. Those agents spent the Covid lockdown boning up on new products, niches and ways to sell unforgettable experiences.
In this environment, "you can't assume you know everything; it's important to take the time to expand your area of expertise and open up new avenues," Licea said.
The prep work pays off, because luxury customers are looking for things they never before imagined, Signature Travel Network executive vice president Ignacio Maza said during a combined Zoom and in-person talk at the Signature Owners Meeting.
"Right now, we are at an inflection point much more important and significant than 9/11," Maza said. "Well-to-do families have done exceptionally well during the pandemic, and the great growth in their wealth has brought a new optimism that has caused them to reorient their lives.
"Travel is the No. 1 priority, not the Range Rover or the Picasso. They want to go away; they want to be pampered. And they want their travel advisor to handle everything."
Travel advisors must approach luxury customers with a new level of personalization, Maza said. "Everything is elevated, upgraded, tailored. People want to be in their own bubble; they want their own photographer, their own safari, their own experiences.
"It used to be they wanted to get into the Vatican, now they want to have coffee with the pope."
Continuing into 2022, "private, private, private" is the mantra, Licea said. Private jets, private island villas, private tours.
People like the seclusion, the uninterrupted time bonding with friends and family, while at the same time being able to easily venture out into the community around them. And as the vaccine for children and boosters for adults become widely available, luxury clients are looking again at Europe, cruises and intimate, small-group tours, including African safaris with 20 people or fewer.
And they are rapidly filling up.
"We are telling customers to come in with three or four or five choices lined up because they might not get the first two, and to be prepared to take any one that is available," she said. "I cannot overplay the importance of planning ahead."
And while you are at it, "always think about the upgrade," Maza told the Signature agents. "'Once in a lifetime' is now. If you have a client going to Singapore, put them up at Raffles."