Welcome to our last luxury issue of 2009—a market segment that many agents and not a few tour operators turned to this past year to shore up sagging sales. So for those readers new or unfamiliar with the high-end market segment, we went to the veterans of luxury travel sales—Virtuoso agents—and picked their brains on various destinations and products, and also highlighted the Ensemble Travel Group in our Agent Profit Center column. Interestingly enough, in virtually every one of the interviews with both the agents and the principals at Ensemble, there were two factors that were mentioned most often—experiential travel and service, seemingly necessary ingredients to close a high-end buyer. Just as interesting was a recent research survey of 2,000 consumers and travel agents that not only confirmed that Crystal Cruises—which has won the Recommend Readers’ Choice Award for Best Luxury Cruise Line nine years in a row—is the most respected brand of all the luxury cruise lines measured, but, Crystal says, it also revealed that even the most high-end cruise travelers respond to some savings messages over others. Based on those findings concerning today’s affluent travelers’ cruise decision-making priorities, Crystal announced a complete revamping of its 2010 pricing and promotions—which also happens to be its 20th anniversary year—with extended value-added features that include 2-for-1 fares for all destinations; all-inclusive—As You Wish spending credits for all destinations—up to $2,000 per couple; free roundtrip air with most cruises; business class air for Penthouse categories in Europe; and a price guarantee protecting early-booking rates. “The scope of changes we’ve made is unprecedented as we literally have to reproduce every piece of collateral we’ve had in the marketplace,” says Bill Smith, senior v.p., Crystal Cruises. “However, our research validated that consumers respond to the value of the ‘2-for-1’ more than any other discount messages. The benefits for discerning travelers are extraordinary—especially when one considers the new promotions are combined with all of the inherent value, luxury and comfort of the award-winning Crystal experience. Additionally, we have an incredible pattern of itineraries for 2010—with fascinating destinations like Sydney, Stockholm and even Saudi Arabia.” Crystal’s spending credits offer a truly customized all-inclusive experience with shipboard spending credits of either $500 or $1,000 pp, including every segment of the World Cruise. On the free air, with few exceptions, Crystal is offering free economy air transportation from more than 20 North American gateways for cruises through Australia/New Zealand, Mediterranean, Baltic, and New England/Canada. As always, Crystal includes roundtrip airport/ship transfers with all of its air/sea programs. Guests can opt to deduct a credit for cruise-only fares. The lesson here is clear—it pays to be affluent.
clarification In the Italian Village at Beaches Turks & Caicos onsite review (page 68, September issue), it was stated that guests who book a minimum 7-night stay during the WonderFALL season are eligible to receive a $250 spa credit at Red Lane Spa. It has been brought to our attention, however, that only guests booked into specific accommodation categories are eligible (contact Beaches for specific information; beaches.com).
We’ve got a full destination roster for you next month as we bring you our annual Editors’ Hot List issue—a worldwide collection of exciting product and destinations that our editors feel should be top-of-mind for 2010. In addition, we’re highlighting what we feel are hot products and trends in travel. But that’s not all—we’re also going to bring you a new Israel Travel Planner that’s meant to augment our in-depth Israel Education Course, available on recommend.com, as well as give you planning ideas for your Israel-bound clients. In the meantime, have a great read.