With the Travel Corporation’s Great Escape Famil set to whip 100 agents off to La La Land next month, we thought it was time to chat to the pros on the ground.
Travel Weekly caught up with Craig Gibbons of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board to get a peek at the insider experiences the lucky bunch are set to discover, and why Aussie agents are still such a big deal in the City of Angels.
Why do you think travel agents are still vital to the industry?
Australians like personalised service; that’s something the internet cannot replicate. With multi-destination holidays being so popular, the services of a travel agent make the research and booking process a lot easier.
Are people still using travel agents? Which markets?
Yes, most definitely. Out of L.A.’s top 10 international source markets, Australia has the highest percentage of travel agent bookings against the other markets when it comes to booking methods, therefore we have a really strong focus on travel trade programs and training in the Australian market.
With the rise in millennials, what do travel agents need to do in order to remain relevant?
I strongly suggest keeping up-to-date with millennials’ favourite destinations by following travel-focused social media channels that target millennials. For instance, in L.A., the millennial market has a really strong appetite in new emerging neighbourhoods such as Downtown’s Arts District, Little Tokyo, hipster haven Silver Lake and the very ‘now’ destination of K-Town (aka Koreatown).
Millennials are more and more wanting to feel ‘like a local’ when in a foreign city and enjoy experiences they can brag about on social media to friends back home. All these neighbourhoods are different from the traditional L.A. experiences that travel agents have been booking in the past.
By staying abreast of these new and relevant experiences, agents can better showcase the depth and breadth of L.A. as a gateway destination into America to millennials.
In terms of travel trends, what do you think we need to keep an eye out for in the future? How do brands keep building and inspiring travel?
Apart from knowing new, upcoming neighbourhoods, I suggest following millennial-facing lifestyle brands launched by major hotel chains, such as the new Mama Shelter Hollywood by Accor in L.A.
Many of these brands popping up in neighbourhoods that millennials want to stay in. Also, travel agents should be on the lookout for new boutique brands in these hot neighbourhoods, such as Proper Hotels, a brand conceived by founder and former Viceroy Hotels CEO Brad Korzen, who’s opening Downtown LA Proper hotel soon.
I am really looking forward to seeing more creative roll-outs such as MOXY by Marriott and Equinox Fitness’ foray into hotels in NYC & LA.
What are the next ‘hot’ destinations?
Well I am biased and have to say that L.A. is a hot destination right now, especially with the revitalisation of Downtown L.A. and Hollywood where we have an abundance of new hotels scheduled to open over the next 5 years.
These will also become the home to some of the best new dining experiences in the U.S. It’s an exciting time and certainly one to watch.