CruiseWhiz Craig or Work Smarter Not Harder With Luxury Clients

Craig Satterfield
CLIA Elite Cruise Counselor Scholar

This is something we all seem to want to have……luxury clients.

I hope the reason that you want them is not just monetary, selling high cost items only to make a high commission.  If that is the case you might want to leave right now and run down to the Burger King for a 99c Whopper!

Selling to the affluent is so much more fun and rewarding than selling the same old thing day in and out.  It is such a pleasure to work with clients that know what they want out of  travel and do not pick apart the costs of delivering these experiences to them.  The luxury travel knows something that others must not…….value for the dollar!

I have found that affluent clients are the easiest to work with.

That is really what you are doing.  Providing experiences for them as you would with your other clientele accept the products and services can be much more personalized, creative and unique.

Let’s talk about some statistics that is working in your favor:

Who are your “luxury” consumers today? Current data profiles the “average” affluent consumer as age 55, with a household income of $304,000. An income of $304,000 places that household in a certain elite percentile.

Ask yourself “do the residents of that household own their home or are they paying a hefty mortgage? The answer to this question can lead to a very different scenario in terms of the disposable income the consumer can or will potentially invest in travel.

Please avoid thinking in stereotypes or pigeonholing “affluent/luxury” consumers. In this business, one size does not fit all especially now that the baby boomer generation is nearing or has recently hit retirement.

I am sure that many of you remember that old saying, “Don’t sell based upon what is in your own pocketbook!”

Another interesting factor is that despite the fact that in some areas of the country regardless of the status of the recent recession, the number of “affluent” people continues to grow!

How do I find and retain the affluent traveler?

Word of mouth or recommendations from family and friends.  Spend time learning and experiencing if you can the luxury products and set up your network to spread the word that you sell luxury.  It pays to advertise and you want to advertise that you are associated with products that the affluent want to experience.

Magazine and newspaper reviews. Stay on top of the news in publications reaching affluent consumers. Pull relevant articles about the luxury products you represent and share them with customers to show your depth of knowledge in this area.  This always helps close the sale.

Direct mail, email, and other contact methods.  Capitalize on co-op opportunities if you can. Take advantage of your consortium’s or hosts direct mail co-op programs for luxury products only.

If you can, stay in front of affluent clients at a minimum by using personalize email.  Just be sure you always have something worth sharing and that it is something that shows a great experience.  Also don’t overdo it.  A little can go a long way.

You don’t want to look over anxious in developing this new relationship.

Internet and social media is important.  Maximize your website with the luxury products you are selling or want to sell.  Nobody will know you sell them if you don’t. This is a good place to partner up with the luxury travel suppliers for their help. Also market yourself through at least one social media channel. Affluent consumers are increasingly using social media like Facebook.

Think and research how luxury brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Mercedes market their products.  You be surprised how many “likes” they have on their Facebook pages.

This business will not come overnight……you have to work for it but in my experience it has been well worth it.  Most of the affluent clients I work with travel at least twice a year and generally have at least one trip in the hopper at all times.

So talk the talk and walk the walk but make sure you know what you are talking about.  Even though I find that the affluent are generally very loyal to their travel providers they still like to check out other information on line.  They are well informed and know when you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes. That is why it is so important to spend time researching luxury travel products like hotels, cruise ships, business and first class air fare and private ground transportation companies.  You want to have these vendors in your portfolio to go to when the need arises.  There can be a good commission made on business and first class international airfare.  It is generally the only commissionable air you are going to get unless you charge a fee.  Not only can you sweep your luxury client off their feet by offering a better price for the air, you can pocket a good commission that you deserve.  Find and work with dependable air consolidators.  They work hard for the business and make you look great!

So which companies do offer a luxury product of value?  Where do I start looking to learn about them?

A great place to start is at the Travel Institute.  They offer a nice market specialists program on luxury travel:   http://thetravelinstitute.com/ls/luxury/  This is what the Travel Institute has to say about this class: “Luxury Travel leads you on a path toward developing an intimate knowledge of the luxury travel product, of the sales process, and of unique needs of affluent consumers. The new course, now in an online format, has been thoroughly updated to reflect the latest statistics, products and trends of this lucrative niche market. The four-part course includes several new features including the latest research about the luxury traveler, success stories from travel counselors selling luxury travel and strategies about how to integrate social media into marketing.”

Start researching luxury cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas.  Why do luxury travelers love them?  First off the ships are smaller and more intimate.  The personalized service and the many selections of wines, great cuisine and itineraries are a great attraction to the luxury traveler.  Where the value comes in is very important as well.  Add shore excursions, airfare with reasonable business class upgrade costs, gratuities, wines and spirits, combined with those destinations you have a product most luxury clients will love.  You will love them too as you earn commissions on all of those elements that you don’t with mass market cruise lines.

Many people live in million dollar plus homes.  Why would they want just basic shelter when they are on vacation?  Spend some time researching on the Great Hotels of the World’s website http://www.ghotw.com/whoarewe.aspx to learn more about them, where they are located and what they have to offer.  Great Hotels of the World is an alliance of luxury hotels from all over the World that share an excellence in quality and hospitality.  They are located in unique locals which may be on your client’s bucket list or in a location famous for natural beauty, spa services, championship golf courses or were previously castles in the olden golden days.

Luxury products are generally very success and are for the reason that the demand for them is out there.  Why not be the travel professional that provides your clients with the best of everything.