As I’m writing this column, the Recommend editorial staff and I are busy making the rounds at the ASTA Global Convention, taking place in Miami, our home base. Among the important news to come out of the convention is the results of a recent survey whose data was collected through the 2013 ASTA Research Family and which shows that agencies are reporting stronger revenue and sales for the first half of 2013 when compared to the first half of 2012. In fact, 52 percent of leisure agencies reported an increase in revenues, and agencies also saw an increase in the number of clients. In terms of sales per travel segment, agencies reported that the largest increases in sales were for insurance, cruise and tour/group. According to the survey, 50 percent of retail leisure agencies, in fact, saw an increase in sales for cruise and insurance, and 47 percent saw an increase in tour/group bookings. Despite that growth, however, agencies project 2013 profits to be on par with 2012, while stronger profits are projected in 2014.
Zane Kerby, ASTA’s president and CEO, says, “Consumer studies have shown that Americans say travel makes them happier. Leveraging the experience and expertise of an ASTA travel agent can maximize one’s travel experience.” Adding that, “ASTA members are benefitting from the appetite consumers have for travel.”
And that appetite for travel, especially in the luxury segment, is backed up by a study conducted last year by the Spectrum Group, a Lake Forest, IL-based research group, that shows that people with a net worth of $25 million spend far more on vacations (and home renovations) than they do on clothing, cars and jewelry. The survey shows that nearly half of the respondents spend more than $25,000 a year on vacations or leisure travel.
That brings us to our bi-annual Luxury & Spa issue, in which we showcase some of the world’s most sumptuous resorts, vacation experiences and spa getaways. When you look through this issue, though, you’ll notice that not all the experiences are over-the-top in terms of monetary value. Yes, we’ve thrown in a Taj Palace hotel in the Morocco feature (page 70) and the Regent Palms Turks & Caicos (page 74)—whose spa had our Associate Editor, Deserae del Campo, swooning—but what well-heeled clients are really looking for is the luxury that comes with having a unique experience that will, in turn, give them bragging rights. For instance, recommend clients opt for expedited check-in away from the usual casino clamor at The Laurel Collection by Caesars Palace in Vegas (page 14); book a room in a 17th century palace in Mexico (page 26); have dinner on a secluded bay while staying at The Peninsula Hong Kong (page 34); or get pampered with the services of a private cook while vacationing in a private villa in Spain (page 82). It’s all those small details that you, the travel agent, are such an expert at arranging and which truly make or break a trip. So it’s no surprise that, according ASTA statistics, travel agencies arrange over 144 million trips annually and process $141 billion in annual travel sales.
—Paloma Villaverde de Rico
E-mail me at email@example.com
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The new Guatemala Specialist Program, available online at edu.recommend.com/ guatemala, focuses on the country’s main tourism destinations as well as special interest vacation options. Once you’ve read through the program and answered the 20-question exam, you’ll be eligible to win one of three 4-day FAM trips for two persons (land only) courtesy of Clark Tours. Visit edu.recommend.com/guatemala.
Also, if you missed the Guatemala webinar, you can view it at recommend.com/guatemala-webinar. One of the webinar participants, Lizzie Collazo, a corporate/leisure travel planner with All Seasons Travel, won a FAM giveaway and is thrilled to be visiting this country in Central America. “Thank you very much for this opportunity to visit Guatemala! This has been a dream of mine, and I am thrilled,” she says.
Guadeloupe Islands Specialist and Incentive Program
In this issue, you’ll find the Guadeloupe Islands Travel Planner, an introduction to the more comprehensive Guadeloupe Islands Specialist Program, available online at edu.recommend.com/guadeloupe. The planner focuses on the country’s diverse islands; essential things to see and do; celebrations; and how to sell these stunning islands. The Guadeloupe Islands Specialist Program offers more comprehensive information, including detailed information on accommodations and special interest travel. Once you’ve read through the program and answered the 20-question exam, you’ll be a Guadeloupe Islands Specialist Program graduate and be eligible to win $1,000. All of the information is on page 8 of the Guadeloupe Islands Travel Planner in this issue. To become a specialist, visit edu.recommend.com/guadeloupe.