Travel Agents

Agents are more like “lifestyle planners”: Seabourn global marketer

Hannah Edensor

We all know agents are the new black, but are they actually called ‘travel agents’ anymore?

Recently, a Vogue article described travel agents as ‘travel designers’, which many of you commented to be an accurate reflection of your role these days.

And now, Seabourn’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, Chris Austin, says agents should be called something else again.

“Agents should be called ‘lifestyle planner’ instead of agent,” he told the crowd at last week’s Cruise360 conference.

Austin explained that with agents forging better client relationships and getting to know their lifestyle choices and history, it’s less about selling travel and more about creating amazing life experiences.

“Agents find out the big anniversaries, the big birthdays, and they may be six years away but you can sow the seeds to sell those dreams,” he said.

Adding to his point, Regent Seven Seas’ Vice President Sales, Australia & New Zealand, Lisa Pile, said agents need to keep talking to clients in order to keep this ‘lifestyle planner’ definition alive.

“I had a client booking a cruise to celebrate her divorce and her 50th birthday all at once,” she said.

Azamara Club Cruises President and CEO Larry Pimental said for agents to build a relationship based on lifestyle rather than sales, “it’s about creating a return on life”.

“A financial advisor tries to get you to make the best financial decision, but that doesn’t apply in travel,” he explained.

“If an experience cost you more but you love it, so what? But if you’ve spent a little and hated it, you’ve wasted time.”

Pile added that clients tend to make decisions using their heart over their head, making the connection between an agent and their client’s lifestyle and background even more important.

On top of all this, Crystal’s Managing Director & Senior Vice President Karen Christensen revealed agents are also moving away from describing travel products as ‘products’.

“The direction in which we’re going is to identify products no longer as products – they’re an experience, they’re bespoke to them,” she said.

The better the relationship between the client and agent, the more likely agents can become exceptional ‘lifestyle planners’, creating lasting memories for their customers, and imprinting their work into some of their most precious memories.

And as Pimental explained yesterday, if you don’t know what has changed in your client’s life, you can’t requalify them and offer them something even better, making your services even more integral to their travel plans.

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