NEW YORK -- Travel Leaders Group (TLG) emphasized its continued expansion into the luxury market last week, with CEO Ninan Chacko calling the company "the market leader in luxury." 

He made that assertion at a media event held at TLG's luxury-focused Elevate the Journey trade show at Chelsea Piers here.

Chacko called the luxury segment a "primary focus" for TLG, especially with its luxury-focused brands like Altour, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group.

"There is no other travel agency company that has more luxury travel advisers," he said, "and our advisers, we believe, have set the standard for what it means to be a high-end travel concierge."

As supporting evidence, Chacko said that 140 TLG advisers and staff members will be attending the International Luxury Travel Marketplace (ILTM) next month in Cannes, France. The event is an annual, invitation-only luxury show. About 1,600 buyers are expected to attend this year.

"That means Travel Leaders Group in total, across all of our brands, accounts for roughly 9% of all buyers and roughly 20% of buyers from ILTM's largest and most important market, which is the United States," he said.

Events like ILTM and TLG's Elevate the Journey, held biannually, help advisers connect with suppliers to learn about product updates and investments, of which there are many of late. 

"We're sort of in a new, renaissance era of money going back in, especially into the airline industry, but of course into other segments, too," Chacko said.

With new hotels, aircraft and cruise ships coming online, the demand for advisers who know the products and can match consumers with the right one is growing.

Chacko called travel advisers "ambassadors" for suppliers.

"These suppliers will, in effect, tell you that our advisers are integral to their success, and all indicators basically forecast growth in this luxury market," he said.

The luxury segment continues to grow. Citing data from the International Luxury Hotel Association, Chacko said the market could grow to $1.15 billion by 2022. Luxury travelers spend more on trips than regular travelers and travel more often. Millennials are also more likely to travel and place a higher value on it, Chacko said.

TLG is expanding advisers' presence in the luxury market through lead-generation programs such as its Agent Profiler tool and marketing.

The company is also investing in the industry with its new headquarters in midtown Manhattan, which will also house Protravel and Tzell. The 106,000-square-foot space is a "strong testament" to TLG's investment in its business, according to the Chacko.

Hotels and airlines

Michael Heflin, senior vice president of TLG's hotel division, and Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airline relations, shared some trends in their respective divisions.

Heflin said hotel consolidation continues and the number of brands keeps growing. He said that was likely because companies want to come together to leverage common platforms while still offering a number of brands. Recent years have also brought a major technology push into the hotel space. Today most hotels are focusing on technology on the back end, such as integrating loyalty and booking systems. 

The trend of the connected room is also changing, especially in the luxury sector: The technology is available for those who want it, Heflin said, but often hidden. For instance, an iPad controlling the room's temperature could be in a drawer and the television hidden by artwork.

In aviation, Vlitas said, advisers are becoming more and more important because of the complexity of flying. Different planes, configurations, fares and ancillaries are contributing to a more complex product. 

"The industry, as it's evolving, as it adds more complexity," Vlitas said, "needs an agent who understands the complexity and can then translate that to the consumer."

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