By Emily Peters
Last week, we took a look at what corporate travel agents actually do. The most obvious comparison was to leisure agents, who specialize in travel for fun instead of travel for business. However, even leisure travel has its fair share of segmentation—and that includes the profitable (and seemingly elusive) luxury market.
For those outside of that market, cracking in can seem impossible. The simple law of averages tells us there are more mid-market clients out there than luxury ones, yet the wealthiest luxury travelers travel nearly four times as often as mid-market clients and spent considerably more.
What we’re saying is this: luxury travelers not only represent more frequent business, but more profitable business on a regular basis. It’s not a niche that an ambitious travel professional should ignore.
What does a luxury travel agent REALLY do?
While the fundamentals of booking luxury travel remains similar to budget or mid-market travel, the responsibilities are not identical. Let’s distinguish what a luxury travel professional does.
- They are largely focused on FIT bookings. Though not fixed truth, luxury travel is generally a custom-made deal. Wealthy travelers have seen much of the world and are often tremendously travel-savvy in their own right. While they turn to luxury travel specialists for the convenience of your services, they’re also seeking someone to develop unusual experiences that they wouldn’t have thought of (or had access to) on their own. That requires a luxury agent to be deeply curious, inventive, and open to spending their own time and money on exploring new destinations and products to create custom FIT trips for their clients.
- They are inclusive. Luxury travel professionals rarely work in the realm of nickel-and-diming. Despite their wealth, luxury travelers aren’t keen on minutiae of tipping, upgrade fees and last-minute optional expenses. Offering an inclusive rate means keeping a vice grip on pricing—and that involves more up-front research and stronger supplier relationships than your average vacation request.
- They’re available during off-hours. Wealthy clients expect their dollars to buy them elevated service. Luxury agents are open to midnight calls and early-morning Skype sessions—not just to speak with their clients, but to connect with their on-the-ground suppliers to ensure every element of the trip is perfection.
Is luxury travel for me?
Luxury travel clients, while trickier to cultivate, can be worth their weight in gold. Most travel professionals regardless of their location have a shot at developing this kind of business. Let’s examine what needs to be in place for that to happen:
- Your network includes the wealthy. So much of luxury travel relies on referrals from happy wealthy travelers. Little by little, one luxury client can mushroom into an entire database of affluent customers. Even if you only have one well-off individual or family in your prospect list, making them the locus of your research and attention can pay off in spades.
- You’re willing to expand your circle. The willingness to become active in areas where the wealthy move (your local country club, government or charity organizations, etc.) is important to creating luxury business. As an independent business owner, you hold special significance in your community, large or small. If you can use that to get out there and participate, you may gain access to circles of unprecedented opportunity.
- You’re ready to work with fewer clients on more complex trips. Luxury travel isn’t necessarily “easier” than other segments, but it does reduce the number of clients you have to work with to make a living. A preparedness for entering into this niche is a preparedness to say “no” to several smaller clients and “yes” to a few juicy, demanding ones.
- You’ve partnered with the right host agency. We can’t stress this enough. Expanding into luxury travel is going to tax your ambition, marketing tactics and product/destination knowledge. Partnering with a host agency like MTravel will allow easy access to the information you’ll need to appeal to that market.
Just like smaller budgets, don’t let the scope of a larger one frighten you out of becoming a luxury travel professional. Keep coming back to the MTravel blog for more tips on developing your luxury travel niche. Good selling!
Are you ready to start your independent travel business with MTravel? We are here to help! Contact us here or call us at 800-870-5799. Be sure to check out our website at www.MTravel.com and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.