By hand-picking dozens of five-star resorts and villas for a luxury-only collection, travel veteran Pascale Gherardi, Voyage by Pascale’s founder and president, works with agents to provide their clients some of the best stays around the world. She talked to us about this niche market, client favorites and how she’ll help agents close a sale.
SM: Why did you decide to create your own company — and why focus on luxury travel?
PG: After working for Island Destinations for 12 years and building the program from scratch, I thought that it was time for me to work for myself, both from a financial point of view and also as a new challenge. With Voyage by Pascale, I can make all of the decisions myself, from choosing the marketing product, how to sell, whom to sell it for, and more, without compromising quality, integrity or service.
My background is in luxury travel, so I continued to keep the same focus for Voyage by Pascale. The luxury travel is a very small niche market and very, very few people handle true luxury. I believe that Voyage by Pascale is one-of-a-kind in the U.S.
In addition, focusing on luxury travel allows me to really dig deep and search for hotels and villas that are not available to everyone.
SM: How do you choose the hotels in the Voyage by Pascale portfolio?
PG: The hotels in the Voyage by Pascale portfolio have to fit into the luxury criteria in terms of facilities, notoriety, easy access, great reputation, and most importantly, service. I have to have 100% confidence in the hotel/villa and be sure that they take care of the client once they are on property, and that I can rely on the staff and its management. I really only sell hotels that I love.
SM: You work with quite a few properties in Mexico. Have you seen a dip in bookings or interest because of perceived safety concerns?
PG: Yes, unfortunately I have seen a dip in bookings and interest in Mexico, although this year it is getting better. Most people do understand that Riviera Maya is far from the safety issues, but the stigma is still there and very wealthy people with families will not travel to the country.
SM: How is the company navigating a shaky economy?
PG: Voyage by Pascale’s business is up over 32 percent compared with last year. The affluent market has always existed, regardless of crisis, war, inflation or terrorism. Traveling for the wealthy people is a way of life. Those who used to spend $10,000 a night for seven nights will still travel, perhaps spending $6,000 for five nights, and flying first class instead of private.
SM: What are Voyage by Pascale’s most popular destinations to date?
PG: This varies depending on the trends, the press—clients want to go to places that have been in the media, and the current scene at the hotel. Viceroy Anguilla has been very strong this year. St Barth is always strong with Eden Rock, Isle de France and Guanahani. Grand Velas in the Riviera Maya has also been a great leader in the winter.
SM: Why did you choose to work exclusively through travel professionals?
PG: I have been working with travel agents for 18 years, and I never worked directly with consumers. Even earlier in my career, when I worked at a hotel is St Barth, I was also working with agents. I have made some very strong bonds with the travel community along all these years. Since I do not work with consumers directly, there is 100% trust between travel agents and Voyage by Pascale, because I will always go back to the agents for the bookings. Travel agents have to be available for their clients 24/7, and I have to be available for the agents. As part of Voyage by Pascale, I offer to talk to the clients directly. I find that my travel agent clients really appreciate the offering, as it helps close the sale sometimes since I’m knowledgeable about all of the properties in the Voyage by Pascale portfolio.