Travel Agents

What do Travel Designers actually do?

Tara Harrison

We’ve been on a mission to find out as much about Travel Designers as we can find.

We’ve climbed the highest heights and swam entire oceans.

Ok, we’re being a little bit dramatic here. But we’re still calling it a quest.

Recently, Travel Weekly attempted to delve into the minds and inner workings of Travel Designers. Now we go one step further and find out how their days are structured, and what challenges they face.

How is Travel Designing executed?

Any guesses for who the famous British entrepreneur was who celebrated Christmas in Australia?

Bespoke luxury travel agency The Tailor teed up a luxury yacht in Queensland and a Pirates of the Caribbean-style treasure chest of presents was buried on a remote sand cay.

This was then discovered on a morning cruise.

“Normal high-end protocol is gate-met arrival off the plane and escorted immigration. No waiting, ever. Not for your driver, not at a check-in desk (in room check-in only). Not for a waiter, a reservation, an organised tour,” Smartflyer MD Eliza Woodward said.

The learning from all our experts is that luxury travel is a trust economy. It’s a partnership between client and designer, designer and supplier.

“A bottle of champagne delivered to a room for a client who doesn’t drink can say ‘we don’t know you’,” Virtuoso MD Michael Londregran said.

Experiential travel is even more of a demand in the luxury space.

“Visitors no longer want a passive holiday, no matter how indulgent. They are looking for something authentic, mildly challenging and hosted by a real person,” The Tailor MD Drew Kluska said.

The Tailor has a term for this: privileged access.

“They like to do things on their own schedule too, like cancelling or rearranging that afternoon tour they now can’t be bothered doing at 2pm sharp because it’s so nice laying by the pool. Their own pool of course.

“Australians get really confused with butlers and like their privacy, they like to not think about their laundry or waiting for a cart to go to the beach club, but they don’t want to see a butler skulking around,” Woodward added.

Knowing your hotels inside out is also key.

Ensemble Travel Senior Vice President Trish Sheppard points out the Rosewood Hotel in Vancouver has a Bentley as its town car and The Crosby Street Hotel in New York has a private theatre with a movie night on a Sunday with popcorn and ice creams.

Tell us more about long-term strategy

Coming to the fore more and more – especially in the US – is a style of five-year plan approach to travel experiences.

“Agents find out the big anniversaries, the birthdays, and they may be six years away but you can sow the seeds to sell those dreams,” Seabourn Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Chris Austin 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”.

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, Pimental said.

Virtuoso has a program called Return on Life, which builds a travel portfolio and has particular traction with family travel.

“Parents are working on the last four or so summers with their teens and considering how they can give them both wonderful and educational experiences,” Londregran said.

“If you can try to have a one year plan for your client’s proposed holidays then you can look out for the sale fares. It’s also about availability. Some boutique hotels can sell out 12 months in advance,” Sheppard said.

Repeat clients are the Holy Grail of designer precision. “We learn something new about the clients on each trip and we can
then make sure this is implemented in the next,” Kluska said.

Time to talk numbers

For Ensemble Travel clients, the budget per trip would not be less than $20,000, whether that’s a week-long beach break or a
European jaunt.

For SmartFlyer, top end budgets start at $1500 a night, and they have clients happy to drop $60,000 to $100,000-plus on a trip.

The Tailor’s clientele starts at $1000 per person, per day. Depending on the client they may want to charter the company’s own PC12 aircraft or even a jet.

The very top clients will spend upwards of $10,000 per person per day.

It’s quite common for clients to spend $3000 to $4000 per person per day especially when there are jets, helicopters or super yachts involved.

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