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Travel Agent Professional Feburary 2018 Issue 56

Tapping into Selling Luxury Travel By Cindy Bertram



Tapping into Selling Luxury Travel Cruising By Cindy Bertram


Cindy's Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC

A Wonderland of New Travel Experiences By Paull Tickner


Paull Tickner & Associates Ltd.

Your Expertise + Effective Listening Is Critical To Client Satisfaction By Mitchell J. Schlesinger MJS Consultants

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Cover Photo: Seabourn

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Travel Agent Professional Feburary 2018 Issue 56

Travel Agent Professional Staten Island, NY 10312 E-mail: Phone: 718.360.3153

Joel M. Abels

Legend In the Travel Industry April 1927 to January 2007

Ann M. Hoek Publisher/Creative Design Bonnie Walling Editor Alan Cohen Vice President Marketing

Meet Our Editorial Board Paull Tickner, Creator of Special Interest Britain Cindy Bertram, Cindy’s Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC Mitchell J. Schlesinger President, MJS Consultants Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal Sue Shapiro, President Shapiro Travel Resources Rusty Pickett, ECC Shellback Cruises Sherry Laskin, ACC Travel Writer/NACTA Webinar Moderator This online magazine is dedicated to the memory of Joel Abels, Travel Trade's editor and publisher. Joel and his life's work may be gone, but with your help it can live on.

Travel Agent Professional has its roots in Home Based Trade, the first magazine of its kind, started by Joel Abels in 2004. Joel and Lenore Abels ran Travel Trade for nearly half a century – it was started by her grandfather, John S. Lewis, and her father, Sidney Lewis, in 1929, and they took the publication over after her grandfather’s passing. Under Joel’s direction, the company grew to be one of the travel agent industry’s leading publications, reaching more than 45,000 agents throughout North America. It spawned a famous series of trade shows and three monthly magazines – Cruise Trade, Tour Trade and Home Based Trade. The Abels also garnered enormous respect – Joel received the Neal Award, called “the Pulitzer Prize of the business press,” for his hard-hitting editorials. On a personal note, after working with Joel for over a decade and staying with him until the end, I grew to truly care for and respect the man. He was like a second father to me. Joel was old school, he stood by his word and believed in his work. There will never be another. While nobody can replace this industry legend, we’re hoping that this new publication, which reunites the original Home Based Trade editorial board, will be able to carry on his passion for travel and those who sell it.

Ann M. Hoek The opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Travel Agent Professional.

February 2018

4 C i n d y B e r t r a m

By Cindy Bertram Cindy's Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC

Today people have diverse “Bucket Lists.” Whether it’s achieving a certain lifestyle, traveling, and going to specific spots and destinations around the world, “Bucket Lists” are things people want to do before they die — things very special to them. Ask someone, “What’s on your bucket list?” and most of the time traveling to a certain destination is on the list. Peoples’ “Bucket Lists” and the experiential side of traveling correlate. It also ties in well with luxury travel cruising, which continues to grow. What are good ways to tap into selling luxury travel cruising today?

First — What is Luxury? Luxury today is really multi-dimensional and it really means different things to different people. Think back to what you thought was luxury even 15 years ago — it’s probably changed. Remember getting your first mobile phone and feeling that might have been a bit of “luxury”? Yet today, mobile devises are an integral part of peoples’ lifestyles, and a necessity. The same holds true with other things. When it comes to cruising and peoples’ expectations, that’s changed as well. The first time I took a cruise, I had a porthole and was so excited about being able to look out at the sea. Now fast forward 25 + years later. Porthole staterooms are long gone, balcony staterooms are a mainstay, and more.

February 2018


Keeping up on Trends in Luxury Cruising As luxury cruising continues to grow and expand, we’re also seeing new trends. One is a new part of luxury cruise programs, including “personal healing” — rejuvenation. Guests like to recharge themselves both mentally as well as physically, and this is where luxury cruise lines have created special programs. It’s also about the ultimate in special pampering — specialty spas and tranquil enclaves. Immersive experiences for guests to have while off the ship are another part of luxury cruising.

Transitioning into luxury cruising One of the very first clients I was able to transition into sailing on a luxury cruise line came up rather unexpectedly. This couple was well travelled, owned a successful business, and were avid cruisers. Then the cruise industry began to expand, with cruise lines building larger ships. My clients were a bit apprehensive, because the cruise line they enjoyed sailing on the most began building larger ships. They were worried the personal touches and ambience they enjoyed might disappear.

Travel Agent Professional


We sat down to talk, covering more of what they were seeking, from destinations and itineraries to the size of the ship. I was able to find a terrific itinerary on a luxury cruise line that had the size of the ship they wanted to sail on. I booked this cruise for them and when they returned, they were quite ecstatic about their wonderful experience. From that point on, they only sailed on that luxury cruise line.

Insights — Chris Austin, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing & Sales, Seabourn As Senior Vice President, Global Marketing & Sales at Seabourn, Chris Austin, knows the luxury cruise market well. His insights on that part of the industry, along with suggestions for travel agents to tap into that area, and grow it, by gaining and building new clients are key things we covered in our recent discussion.

February 2018

7 Expansion of Luxury Cruising and “Ultra-Luxury” Chris and I had a chance to talk about the expansion of luxury cruising, along with “Ultra-Luxury,” something Seabourn is well known for. I asked Chris, “What is the best way to describe “Ultra-Luxury” and what you provide guests who sail on Seabourn?” First Chris explained, “The luxury travel market has several key pillars that are timeless and differentiates the market from other luxury products. Today, ultra-luxury is all about acquiring unique, bespoke, curated experiences that improve quality of life — the experience of beauty, knowledge, and humanity at their deepest and most inspiring across our extraordinary world. Foundationally, some things are constant.” Then he mentioned that today’s luxury client continues to expect the finest in service, quality of accommodations, food and beverage. Chris brought up three key areas that Seabourn offers and focuses on for their guests — authentic experiences, traveling to unique destinations, and personalized service. His key points: Authentic experiences. We are seeing more luxury travelers placing a greater emphasis on the level of authentic experience they can have at destinations around the world. At Seabourn, we have developed a number of programs, such as Ventures by Seabourn, Seabourn Journeys (pre- and post-cruise experiential land extensions), and our UNESCO partnership, that are all designed to help fulfill some of these desires to be immersed in the world like never before. Traveling to unique destinations. The destination itself has never been more important to today’s traveler, and Seabourn delivers destinations and experiences better than anyone else. For example, Seabourn’s voyages are carefully curated to feature a proper mix of smaller hidden gems and well-known destinations. Personalized service. This is the heart of ultra-luxury travel because receiving personalized service can turn a great travel experience into an amazing one. At Seabourn, our exceptional service is renowned. Many of our guests would say that our onboard staff is where we shine the brightest. Our team creates what we call “Seabourn Moments,” delivering attentive personalized service and anticipating our guests’ needs before they even ask.

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Wellness and Rejuvenation — Hot Interest Areas for Luxury Travelers Chris and I then talked more about hot trends when it comes to luxury travelers, what he’s seeing, along with insights and what Seabourn provides onboard. Chris explained, “Wellness is one of the hottest interest areas for luxury travelers right now. Wellness is more than just a dedicated space with modern equipment, and it’s more than just a personal trainer on staff. The future of wellness is being reimagined - becoming broader to touch on mind as well as body. I believe part of the reason is the overarching shift from luxury goods to authentic experiences that are truly enriching, helping us mentally and physically rejuvenate ourselves.” We then talked a bit more about the holistic wellness program Seabourn has, created by Dr. Andrew Weil.

February 2018

9 Chris provided more details, and said, “The launch of the Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil program deepens the already wellnessfocused Seabourn spa program that offers a wide range of body massages, facials, fitness and beauty treatments. Many of our guests take an interest in living a healthy lifestyle and they would like to continue that focus while they travel. Partnering with Dr. Weil became natural for us because he is such a renowned expert in the field of integrative medicine allowing us to create a first-of-itskind wellness experience at sea that meets these preferences for today’s traveler. This partnership gives us an opportunity to offer programs that expand the variety of options that allows a traveler to relax, rejuvenate and stay healthy while onboard a Seabourn ship. This program is currently available on all of our ships and will also be on the new Seabourn Ovation when the ship is launched.”

Suggestions on how to move into selling luxury cruises For travel agents who might not have sold many luxury cruises, I asked Chris what tips and suggestions he would have for agents who want to expand their sales in this particular market. Chris said, “Selling ultra-luxury cruises is all about service and making yourself an expert. Selling luxury and selling long haul is a sweet spot for all travel professionals regardless of size. I would also add that all travel professionals have the opportunity to sell luxury even if they do not have a strong affluent client base. How? By tapping into the aspirational travel market and proposing that the celebration of life events, such as key birthdays and anniversaries, are celebrated by taking a vacation, such as on an ultra-luxury cruise on Seabourn. Travel professionals should become part of their client’s journey when they are booking a holiday. Once they are at that stage, they will know when they want to book, where they want to go – they will be part of their calendar.”

Travel Agent Professional

10 Focus! Then Chris covered another important area about focusing. He explained, “In addition, travel professionals should focus on one or two brands and become experts on those brands by embracing the training resources that are available. Understanding the unique features of a brand and sharing with their clients is key. For example, at Seabourn we offer an incredibly rich onboard adventures program called Ventures by Seabourn whereby we augment our onboard staff with a veteran expedition team of naturalists, scientists, photographers, and other experts to enhance and broaden guest destination experiences. And of course, with my luxury hospitality background, I would also recommend travel professionals focus on adding pre and post land experiences in the finest hotels and resorts around the world to again increase their client experience and their own profits.” Chris then said, “Here are some other suggestions for travel professionals to succeed in the luxury cruise market, and in particular, to boost their sales with Seabourn.” We have developed an expert series of “Why Seabourn” assets for our travel professional partners that focus on various regions around the world and why travelers should visit those destinations on a Seabourn cruise. Examples include: Why Seabourn Alaska, Why Seabourn Caribbean. I suggest travel professionals reach out to clients and use the reasons listed in each asset. They can cut and paste them into an email, identify 10 potential clients and then write to them saying, “I’ve done my research and I know you would love the experience of taking a vacation in Alaska. Here are the reasons why.”

February 2018

11 the Seabourn experience. This is a great example of creating a unique way of contacting the guest, often tying it to a special occasion or event. Take a look at your own clientele and look for interests that might drive them to Seabourn. Examples include cross promotion with a spa, art event, wine tasting, etc. “For Seabourn,” Chris explained, “our focus is finding those channels where the potential luxury traveler resides. Today, especially for the ultra-luxury segment, there is still great value in face-to-face interaction, both in terms of generating interest in our brand, all the way through the transaction and even into post-cruise follow-up. The personal touch is key for our agent-guest interactions.”

Questions to ask I then asked Chris what might be a few good questions to ask a potential client to see if they fit luxury A luxury client wants an expert who is flexible and

cruising. Chris said, “Get to know what your clients

knows how to get those business-class flights and

like, what turns them on, what type of product they

change their arrangements if they need to.

generally choose. Explore the type of holiday a noncruiser normally takes and how their requirements

Successful agents understand the value of all-inclusive

can be matched to a luxury cruise. Those who rent

cruises versus other more costly options (examples

large villas — maybe with staff, or those who consis-

— 5 star hotels, land options)

tently book up-scale hotels/resorts (and these are usually not all-inclusive) or those who just generally

Know your client — match the right person to the

value exclusivity, calm, quality and like-minded people

right product

around them.”

Work consistently with their business development

Chris expanded, saying, “Understanding the needs of

managers, who have a wealth of information and

the traveler, from their interests, what destinations

tools and trainings that will help to develop their

they want to visit, what is their ideal vacation, as well


as realizing one person’s luxury is not necessarily another’s, what their personal tastes are, along with

Reach out to a small number of potential and past

personalization, and customized services are other

clients and send them a small gift that gives a taste of

key things.”

Travel Agent Professional

12 few years. Identify why they chose the resort — was it the star rating, the celebrity chef, the spa, the beach, etc. Once you know, you can present their next vacation on Seabourn aligning to the driver they selected the resort by. If it is spa, speak about how you have identified a vacation that not only has a world renowned spa but a Spa & Wellness Program curated by Dr. Andrew Weil.” He also mentioned that it’s important to get the conversation started and paint the picture — just don’t say “I’m going to book you on a cruise.”

Where to find potential luxury clients

Chris’ thoughts about millennials In our discussion I mentioned that part of the growing

One of the challenges sometimes travel agents deal

luxury and ultra-luxury cruising market is millennials

with is expanding their client base. And in the case of

and Chris provided insights. He said, “We are seeing

luxury, I asked Chris, “Where can travel agents find

more millionaire millennials than ever before. But I

potential luxury clients?”

want to stress that ultra-luxury travel isn’t defined by age; it’s a lifestyle. Luxury is timeless. As stated previ-

Chris mentioned, “There are many opportunities for

ously, I recommend identifying and aligning with other

travel professionals to find potential luxury cruise

luxury consumer brands to reach a new audience. If

clients, from the first-time cruiser who normally go on

you want to tap more into the millennial set, reach

land vacations to experienced cruisers who have

out to a luxury brand that has demographic that fits

sailed only on premium cruise lines. The guest demo-

this set. And just as you would do with any other lux-

graphic on luxury can be varied – retired, singles,

ury client, get to know them better, find out what

busy professionals, and multi-generational groups

their interests are and curate a vacation experience

(although children’s facilities can be more limited – or

that meets their needs, interests and preferences.”

even-non-existent). As stated before, get to know your clients’ interests and what type of vacation they

Some takeaways

generally take. Explore the type of holiday a non-

The insights Chris Austin shares along with ways to

cruiser normally takes and how their requirements

grow the luxury cruising part of your business really

can be matched to a luxury cruise. Identify other lux-

get back into key things — asking questions, getting a

ury consumer brands or products and establish mutu-

pulse on peoples’ interests, their wants and desires,

ally beneficial relationships.”

along with how luxury varies depending on the person. Our expertise creating the best travel cruising

Then he said, “Focus on your ‘luxury land lover’

experience that is extraordinary, not ordinary ties in

clients who have taken a resort vacation in the past

perfectly when selling luxury.

February 2018

14 P a u l l T i c k n e r

With Virgin Atlantic offering Manchester-bound non-stop flights from Atlanta, Boston, New York and San Francisco, take a closer look at some of the inspiring new tours that are available for independent travellers and customised groups beyond the Manchester Gateway In the past, Manchester Airport has been seen largely as the gateway to the north of England, but as the map shows, it’s also the starting point for a new generation of imaginative tours to Scotland, the Heart of England, North Wales and Ireland. Using Virgin Atlantic’s new non-stop flights, some of Best Loved Hotels very fine properties and my fertile imagination, this short presentation will begin to reveal some of the many treats in store and com-

By Paull Tickner Paull Tickner & Associates Ltd.

missions to be made from developing new business through the Manchester Gateway.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is renowned for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at and E-mail him at

February 2018

15 Gain Easy Access Through Manchester: The fast airside to kerbside service at Manchester Airport, England’s northern airport makes it the perfect starting point for tailor-made tours heading north to the Lake District and Scotland, eastwards to the great Viking city of York and James Herriot’s Yorkshire Dales. Turning west, it’s just a short hop to the Roman city of Chester, the great 12th century castles at Conwy and Caernarfon in North Wales, and across the Irish Sea to Belfast, Dublin and the Emerald Isle of Ireland. Heading south, your ports of call include Wedgwood in the World Capital of Ceramics, alternatively known as Stoke on Trent, William Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon, the sheep clad hills of the Cotswolds, the university city of Oxford and with jet lag parked in the English countryside, before you’re well set for a few days in London. The Manchester Gateway also offers great opportunities for open-jaw combinations — into Manchester, out of Edinburgh; into Manchester, out of Dublin; into Manchester, out of London. Try them in reverse order and they all work equally well.

Target Anglophile Customers First, second and third timers will always prefer to fly in and out of London. But more frequent travellers will appreciate the fast Immigration and Customs service they can rely on at Manchester Airport and the fact that attractions like Roman centurion-led tours of Chester, meeting the master craftsmen and women at Wedgwood and a Magical Mystery Beatles tour are all less than one hour away. Many of your customers will be 50-plus Anglophiles interested in the visual and performing arts, literature, sources of inspiration for great writers, poets, painters and sculptors. They also will also love the many treasurefilled castles and stately homes and their magnificent gardens, which are the equal (many will say better) than their counterparts in the south of England.

Travel Agent Professional


Be Creative And Inspire Your Clients Just as you’ve added bubble, fizz and pleasant surpris-

the lookout for new fund-raising tours, so the England

es to itineraries arriving and departing through

through the Manchester Gateway looking glass offers

London Heathrow, you can do exactly the same

instantly recognizable names like David Hockney, L.S.

through the Manchester Gateway, but this time you

Lowry, J.M.W. Turner, the Pre-Raphaelites, the sculp-

can be designing tours that your target audience will

ture of Sir Henry Moore and the master craftsman-

have never seen before.

ship of Thomas Chippendale, the renowned cabinet maker and furniture designer whose 300th anniver-

For example, your green-thumbed customers will not

sary is being celebrated in 2018.

have been offered garden tours that include Bloom in Dublin, the North Wales Garden Festival and the

With Yorkshire pub tours, seriously challenging golf at

Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show at

Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham and St.

Chatsworth. Set this up for a couple of clients for

Annes, rides on the Great Little Trains and 12th cen-

2018 and then use their testimonials to build a group

tury castles in North Wales, Shop ‘n’ Ship Girls

of 15-20 for 2019.

Getaways to Wedgwood and the great Antiques and Collectors Fairs at Newark, the Manchester Gateway

Putting together literary sources of inspiration tours

can quite literally provide an Aladdin’s Cave of won-

can be both rewarding and fun, especially when the

derful new travel experiences that will delight your

bookshelf is full of works by Lewis Carroll, Beatrix

clients and generate valuable new sources of profit

Potter, James Herriot, Bram Stoker of Dracula fame,

for you.

the Brontë sisters, and Ellis Peters, the creator of the Brother Cadfael monk detective novels, and On

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is

Location with “Victoria,” which begins airing on

known for his expertise in creating and operating

Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday, Jan. 14.

imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at  and

Your museum and art gallery contacts are always on

email him at

February 2018

18Your Expertise + Effective M i t c h e l l

On the leisure side, I consider this a particularly daunting task specifically based on critical factors:

Understanding the particular psychographics of your clients regarding the specific experience they want as it relates to mul-

J .

tiple aspects of the trip; level of destination immersion,

S c h l e s i n g e r

ship/hotel features, dining and entertainment options, applicable enrichment programming, etc.

The growing number of varying products providing travel opportunities to similar geographies and specific destinations which requires significant introspective discussions with clients so that they CLEARLY understand how different brands and in the case of the cruises, varying ship sizes, can provide dramatically different experiences.

By Mitchell J. Schlesinger Chief Marketing & Sales Officer, MJS Consultants,

These factors are exacerbated further in meeting and/or exceeding the expectations of clients the longer and morecostly the trip. Logically there is less time to for a client to be dissatisfied on a quick getaway compared to a more-costly 1014-day cruise or tour.

The simplest concept for travel sellers is basi-

This is all part of the profiling discussion that must take place which

cally that your livelihood is exclusively depen-

demands that you be an effective listener. The art of selling has noth-

dent on the satisfaction of every client you

ing to do your preferences, but what the client tells you they want in

book on a trip. And this applies to everything

an experience. On the other hand, it does require, that based on

from one couple taking a cruise or tour to the

their expressed choices, you provide them with clear expectations

largest commercial based agents booking hun-

for the experience and how it can impact the cost.

dreds of business travelers each month. way Like all things, every aspect of a trip is reviewed, evaluated and judged based

For instance:

There are clients who clearly prefer bigger ships with more features. In this scenario the client needs to understand how this

mainly on the information you provide and

impacts the destination experience versus selecting a smaller

recommendations you make. In truth, it is

ship. This is what I refer to as “effective time in port”. Mega

daunting task to meet or exceed client

ships are usually restricted to bigger mainstream ports, take

expectations that is only fulfilled with an in

longer to debark, can require longer travel time to and from

depth and thorough profiling process. And

the targeted destination, reducing the actual time spent. The

all of this is critical as it regards your repu-

resulting port call listed as 8:00 am-6:00pm can sometimes pro-

tation, and the ability to generate both

vide as little as 6 hours in port. Obviously, smaller ships can

repeat and substantial referral business.

dock or anchor closer, providing faster access, a longer experience, with many staying later into the night or overnight.

February 2018


Listening Is

Critical To Client Satisfaction

Tourism New Zealand Waiotapu Champagne Pool, Rotorua Please Credit: Chris McLennan

Conversely, those clients selecting smaller ships (500-1200) for a more immersive destination experience will not have up to 12 restaurant options, lavish entertainment, extensive spa and workout facilities, etc. And they will probably pay a bit more for being in a more selective environment.

And these examples are further differentiated by the cruise destination. Clients may prefer mega ships for cruises to mainstream destinations such as the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, etc. These same clients select smaller ships for cruises where they want a more immersive experience in destinations including the Baltic, east & west Mediterranean, southeast Asia, Australia/New Zealand, etc.

And back to “psychographics”; there are the needs and wants of clients generationally. Millennials, families, Boomers and seniors/retirees, can all want significantly different experiences. They clearly do not want to find themselves on a ship for 7+ days surrounded by guests far different than their demographic or a brand that does not offer the type of experiences they seek.

Your expertise and ability to listen carefully to what clients tell you is critical.

Remember to “read back” the

key components of the conversation so that you can start your recommendation with; “based on what you have told me”…The client is still going to make the final decision using the “expert” recommendations you provide. Providing them with the benefit of your expertise will better insure they come back as happy and fully satisfied client.

Travel Agent Professional


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Travel Agent Professional 2018  
Travel Agent Professional 2018