Editor's Notes: October 2010

Welcome to our semi-annual Spa & Luxury issue, a collection of some of the world’s best spa and luxury product. There’s probably no better indication of the growth of luxury travel than this year’s emphasis by Vacation.com on its own considerable collection of luxury product and its entrance into the luxury consortium field. “If you look at our business in totality, we’ve always sold a lot of luxury and premium type of brands and if you step back and look at our offerings of preferred suppliers, you can clearly see we’re an active player in that role,” explains Steve Tracas, president and CEO of Vacation.com “So, I think it behooves our membership and ourselves to put a spotlight on this and talk about this part of our business. We haven’t always done that…it’s time we bring that to light because we do about $300 million annually in luxury sales.”

Indeed, Vacation.com’s supplier list does read like a “Who’s Who” of luxury travel companies. Cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Viking River Cruises; airlines such as Bluestar Jets and Uniglobe’s Corporate Air Program; tour operators like Brian Moore International Tours and IsramWorld’s companies, all with customizable luxury vacation offerings; plus five-star hotel offerings like JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and a whole lot more.

The broadening of its supplier base with luxury product suppliers has also resulted in drawing new member agents with expertise in luxury product sales. “I like to say that it’s just highlighting areas that we have expertise in that maybe haven’t been as forthcoming in the past. We always talk about our business products and now this just gives us a focus on luxury,” Tracas points out. “Other people might say, ‘I love Vacation.com’s conference, it’s one of the best going,’ or ‘I love their technology, but I didn’t realize they had that kind of luxury coverage, so they really do meet my needs more than my current affiliation does, or in more areas than my current supplier does.’ So it really does serve the purpose of bringing in more enhanced commissions and more enhanced revenues to our current base….”

Vacation.com’s much daunted technology also enhances the opportunity for luxury sales with offerings like its Engagement program, a segmented direct mail program that allows agents to identify and target specific markets, a perfect tool for the luxury market. “It’s not only having the product,” Tracas emphasizes, “but it’s being able to reach out to the consumer at the right time and say this is the right program for you so they’ll call one of our members to make a booking.… And nobody does that better than Vacation.com.” Still other tools exclusive to Vacation.com such as Vacation Vignettes and its Culinary Collection fit that luxury niche, as well. “There’s a tremendous amount of luxury product out there to meet the needs of that traveler,” says Tracas. “And the term you use all the time is value—getting a lot for the money you invest and when you have specialty programs like the Culinary Collection or you have Vacation Vignettes where they can get exclusive shore excursions, it tells the consumer that they can have a quality luxury product with added amenities that equates to value.”

Extensive product training, too, is an integral part of the Vacation.com consortium operations, still another factor that endears them to the luxury suppliers. Tracas points out that, “They want our members to understand them, to learn about them and to sell them appropriately. So there’s a lot of training for our members and a lot of good results for our suppliers. I think that’s why we produce so much luxury product now.”

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In a recent Vacation.com survey of its luxury market segment, 56 percent of agents cited that intergenerational travel—including family reunions—provided the highest demand in 2010 travel, followed by culinary and wine travel at 40 percent. In the international market, 50 percent of agents surveyed named Western Europe, 44 percent cited the Mediterranean and 38 percent the Baltic, with having the highest demand in 2010. In the cruise segment, 50 percent of agents cited deep-water cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises as the most popular, with 25 percent naming river cruises. We also reached out to Vacation.com agents to get their comments on the destinations we covered this month and you’ll find those comments throughout this month’s issue.