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If you’re thinking of delving into the luxury travel segment, the top thing to keep in mind, says Sherwin Banda, president of African Travel, Inc, is that “Americans with income over $100,000 make up just 20 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the latest market data, [but] they account for 51 percent of total travel-related spending.” What else should you keep in mind if you decide to start on the luxury travel track? According to the industry insiders and travel advisors we spoke with, “travel advisor partners truly need to understand the needs of the travelers,” notes Banda, adding that it’s also “important to have a relationship with suppliers to provide a truly tailor-made experience.” Scott Wiseman, president of Travel Impressions, points out that as travel advisors who are new to the luxury segment get a sense of what drives their clients, they “should be mindful not to make assumptions based on past experiences with clients who may seem similar. Each client should feel like you’re designing their dream vacation specifically for them, and their preferences.” In fact, says Melissa Young, director of sales for Red Carnation Hotels, it’s important to have a conversation with your client. “Ask them questions about their previous travels…and it’s important to seek out their lifestyle choices, hobbies, and interests.”

Travel advisor Peggy Rosenthal, a Dream Vacations franchise owner, points out that luxury clients “need a travel advisor who will attend to every aspect of a trip, from private transfers to event reservations and tickets, preferring to leave everything in the hands of the professional.” They want “authenticity, and exclusive access to iconic locations,” says Jon Grutzner, president of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, adding that travel advisors need to understand that “today’s luxury is defined by the uniqueness in an experience, not just the accommodations.” Banda adds on yet another layer when pointing out that “clients are looking for a diverse range of experiences, but mostly transformative ones that are meaningful and personal.”

In fact, says travel advisor Susan Farewell, owner of Farewell Travels, personalization is key, noting that one of “my clients owns a major vineyard…when they travel, they are seeking out very exclusive wine experiences…. We often have to make very elaborate private tastings available with vineyard owners wherever they go.” When asked what the top three things she keeps in mind when selling to the affluent client, Farewell says: “Private; unique access; and flexibility, as they want to be able to change things and not be locked in all the time.” Adds Rosenthal, “Affluence doesn’t always mean a client wants the top suite in a hotel or a cruise ship, so advisors need to understand and respect their accommodation preference.”

But how do you attract the luxury client if you are new to the segment? Terry Holmes, executive director of Red Carnation Hotels, says that advisors need to “exude confidence, without being overpowering. Being a good storyteller is a great advantage and puts the client comfortable with your recommendations. Never be condescending, and in my experience, the wealthiest clients still like to feel that they are getting a ‘good deal.’”

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