The news of Luxury Escapes’ agent portal earlier this month has drawn huge attention from travel agents, with more than 400 agencies and well over 2000 agents submitting to the platform in the week since the news.
The portal comes amid widespread agent demand for Luxury Escapes, spurred by many buying its product and then marking it up to their client or selling for no commission at all.
Discussing the move with Travel Weekly was Adam Schwab, Luxury Escapes’ CEO, to tell all on why his company has launched its highly sought-after agent portal.
“We weren’t rewarding agents for selling our product,” Schwab said. “We had agents regularly coming to us saying ‘we want to sell Luxury Escapes, but you have no way to do it’.”
Over the years, Luxury Escapes had some informal travel portals, but there wasn’t much investment in them. The Luxury Escapes Agent Hub, planned for March, will be the wholesaler’s first official portal and goes against a general travel industry trend to slash agent commission and market products directly to consumers, particularly amongst airlines.
But Schwab dismisses this trend, instead valuing the work agents do, particularly via the relationships they’ve built with their clients.
“We think there’s real value in the relationship that agents have with customers and if the customer wanted to buy from us, they’d already be buying from us [as] our brand is relatively well-known,” Schwab said.
“The reason why people go back to their agent year-on-year is because their agent provides great advice, they can trust their agent, and [the agent has] done it for them for a long period of time. So rather than try and change the behaviour and spend a fortune acquiring a customer, I would much rather work with an agent and reward them for the fact that they’ve built that relationship.”
The portal, which agents can gain access to following a qualification procedure, will offer that similar personal service to agents, with the same 24/7 customer service that is offered to its consumers.
But while Luxury Escapes is now seemingly in the good books with the trade, it hasn’t always been the case. Some in travel have seen Luxury Escapes as a competitor, but Schwab said he’s always seen his company as friends of the trade.
He sites the example that Luxury Escapes is responsible for 50 per cent of Aussie outbound tourists to the Maldives is booked through Luxury Escapes, which the wholesaler has been instrumental in expanding.
“This goes to the pie argument; we’ve never thought of ourselves as taking market share, we’ve always thought of ourselves as expanding the market,” Schwab said. “The Maldives is a classic example – In 2017 I think 17-18,000 Australians went to the Maldives, and now 36,000 Australians got to the Maldives each year.”
And Luxury Escapes isn’t just sending its customers overseas, it’s looking to send itself overseas and the trade route could be the way to further that. Luxury Escapes currently has businesses in 29 countries, with the US and the UK being the biggest international offices outside Australasia.
“We’ve seen how much success Flight Centre and Intrepid have had going global – it’s certainly been something that’s been on roadmap for a long time [and] we’ve made reasonable strides, about 20 per cent of our sales come from international source markets,” Schwab said.
“We think trade is one way we can get there as well.”
Find out more about the agent portal here.