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Are You Missing Out on the “Next Big Thing” in Travel Sales?

In case you missed it, the luxury and niche travel business has been exploding in growth. Tour operators are offering more upscale itineraries with custom built coaches and five-star hotels than ever before. Capacity in the luxury cruise segment increased by 45% in 2016 alone, and will double again by 2020. And of course, river cruising is still on a juggernaut, fueling the growth more than any other sector.

There is no shortage of customers either. Forget the millennials – at least for now. They are not what’s driving this boom. It is in fact- the “Boomers.” According to Northern Trust, a Chicago-based wealth management firm, more than 50% of the discretionary dollars available in the market today is in the hands of, you guessed it -the Boomers! Their number one interest just happens to be travel.

Folks, the opportunity is now and will be here for the foreseeable future. In my experience, I have seen a tremendous shortage of travel professionals who are capable of serving this highly lucrative segment.

So I asked myself “Why are there so few ‘qualified’ agents when the opportunity is bigger and better than it has ever been?” I have been teaching travel professionals how to sell to affluent travelers for over 20 years, but a statement made by an attendee on a recent webinar I hosted on the subject literally stopped me in my tracks.

“Dan, I thought I had to be a part of XYZ (one of several consortia focused in the upscale travel market) to be able to sell those products.” As you can imagine, I was incredulous. I heard it again a month later, and then again at a conference where I was a guest speaker. It’s like the luxury car you never noticed before & now suddenly you see them everywhere.

I have always taken it for granted that any travel professional, whether they have been in the business one day or fifty years, knows they can sell virtually any cruise, tour, air, car, or hotel they like – be it a $20 a night hotel room or a $500,000 world cruise.

But was I missing something and if so, how rampant is this perception? While I don’t claim to know the answer, it didn’t take a lot of brain power to figure out where it originated. It comes down to one word – Specialization.

Members of these consortia and their member agencies specialize in selling to affluent travelers. Just as certain organizations focus their attention on mass and premium market.

Hats off to the marketing and branding executives at these consortia for leading many to believe (intentionally or not) that if an agent isn’t affiliated with a particular organization, they were not qualified to sell upscale products to affluent travelers.

We all know the value of specialization. For example, as a business advisor, I specialize in teaching travel professionals how to accelerate their sales by focusing on affluent travelers.  This is what I do. It’s what sets me apart from other coaches in the industry, and keeps the demand for my services high.

How about you? What sets you apart? Don’t tell me things like your exceptional customer service or 24/7 availability – everyone says that. No – what truly makes you exceptional in the eyes of your customers, that what sets you apart.

There is no reason why you can’t be anything you want to be

Specialization has a trickledown effect. The supplier, consortia, agency , and agent all benefit from specialization. If you choose to focus or specialize in the affluent and niche market, it probably makes sense to be a part of an organization whose objectives are congruent with your own. But before you make the leap into the deep end, consider looking at the resources your current host or consortia offers in a new light.

We currently have an opportunity like no other in the history of retail leisure travel. The largest amount of discretionary spending combined with an active boomer population has all the ingredients for many years of success.

It is up to you to learn who these affluent travelers are and how to reach them. Let me be clear-  you don’t have to be a member of a certain consortia to sell luxury and niche products. But you must put forth the same, if not greater, effort into learning and building this segment as you have the rest of your business. As my late father-in-law would often say, “You have a choice.” Personally, I choose commissions with commas over those without any day.


Dan Chappelle is a professional sales coach, business advisor, author, and speaker. His specialty is Accelerating Sales by focusing on Affluent Travelers.

Dan Chappelle is a professional sales coach, business advisor, author, and speaker. His specialty is Sales Acceleration.

His training and consulting firm helps develop sales oriented business leaders. In addition to advising individual salespeople and entrepreneurs, his corporate clients include AAA, Cruise Planners, Ensemble Travel Group, and Travel Leaders Group. His best-selling book, Get Your S.H.I.P. Together: The Wealthy Travel Agent Guide to Sales, is available on Amazon.com. For information on Dan’s Sales Acceleration programs, visit: www.DanChappelle.com

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