Paul Wiseman leads Trafalgar with more than three decades of expertise within the travel and tourism hospitality industry, helping to grow the iconic Trafalgar brand through strategic partnerships across the U. S. His passion for travel was ignited more than 30 years ago having served as a travel agent within a leading agency in Australia. He expanded his travel experience through roles within regional airlines and tourism boards before joining Avis Rent-A-Car to head up travel industry sales.
He joined The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of companies in 1999 as general manager of Contiki Holidays, the worldwide leader in vacations for millennials. After moving to Trafalgar in Australia as managing director, he relocated to Southern California in 2007 as president of Trafalgar USA.
Based on his extensive travel experiences throughout Europe, Great Britain, North America, South America, Asia, the South Pacific and the Middle East, he believes travel is imperative for invigorating personal growth that should not be missed. Wiseman’s personal appetite for travel combined with his passion for sharing Trafalgar’s brand story aligns with the company’s mission to deliver experiential guided vacations with award-winning service.
Wiseman holds a Master’s Degree in Tourism Management from the University of Technology, Sydney, and graduated from the Senior Manager Development Program at the Australian Graduate School of Management.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Paul Wiseman (PW): I grew up with a small family in an Australian country town. We only took occasional driving vacations to the beach, and my father died without ever having flown on a plane. My first job was a one-day-a-week brochure stamper for a travel agency, and that experience sparked my interest to see the rest of the world outside of the tiny one that I knew.
Traveling the world has transformed me from a country kid into a globalized business executive. Every day, I’m invigorated to go to work to facilitate travel for worldly, curious people so they, too, can grow, share, enjoy, learn, respect, and fulfill their dreams. Travel makes better Australians. Travel makes better Americans. Travel makes better global citizens. Experiencing different cultures brings history to life, art to your eyes, and love to your heart.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at Trafalgar.
PW: We have a great saying at The Travel Corporation (TTC) and that is, “If you are not serving the customer directly, you better be serving someone who is.” In our case, that is our travel agency partners so there is most definitely never a day that goes by without me talking with our partners about sales, marketing, and customer service, so that is a big part of my day.
At this time of year, we are winding down the sales season with a few final promotions like our two-week Italy Sale for September travel that just launched with an unprecedented savings of $600 per couple and can be combined with an additional airfare savings of $350 on British Airways or American Airlines when booked through June 14, 2016. We’re seeing a trend of travelers booking closer to date of departure. It’s more like 60-90 days instead of the normal 6-9 months, so we’re incentivizing those who are booking their September trip now. Then we’re working towards all the product launches for 2017.
The greatest fulfillment for me as president of Trafalgar USA is that as part of TTC’s family of brands, we have the privilege of helping hundreds of thousands of guests visit any — and every – destination that speaks to their imagination. What makes it special is enabling a deeper cultural immersion than they would have found on their own.
TRO: What exactly is a “hassle-free holiday”?
PW: It means that we take care of all the details so our guests can simply enjoy their valuable time off with loved ones on vacation. As a global travel company backed by 70 years of designing unforgettable stress-free vacations, every element of a Trafalgar vacation is perfectly balanced with the right experiences, VIP access to major sights, inclusions, hotels, and even the locals travelers they will meet. Hand-picked Travel Directors accompany guests for the duration of the trip, providing personalized concierge service and share insider knowledge. Unique authentic experiences are unearthed like dining with local families, which truly reveal the destination.
A perfectly-planned itinerary balancing free time and flexibility is handed to the traveler. Behind the scenes, Trafalgar takes away all the usual travel hassles from waiting in lines to hotel check-ins, driving, luggage handling, and more.
TRO: Trafalgar has a reputation for bringing in the best of local artisans for their Insider Experiences. Can you tell us more about that?
PW: Travelers are increasingly seeking deeper, richer experiences, so we set about to create those experiences that guests simply could not find on their own. Our well-connected product teams leverage their relationships to enhance our product with more unique, local experiences. We conducted a massive research undertaking that confirmed negative stigmas associated with rigid, cookie-cutter “escorted tours” that confirmed travelers wanted these authentic local insider experiences.
Be My Guest is an Insider Experience offered on almost all of our 250 different itineraries around the world. Our Tastes and Sounds of the South trip is my hands down favorite, and it’s a true taste of America travelers can’t book anywhere else. It’s arriving in a city I had never heard of, Natchez, Mississippi, and leaving having had one of the most wonderful experiences of Southern hospitality imaginable in a setting right out of a movie, showcasing great history and food with an incredibly personal touch.
Guests enjoy an evening in an historic home built in the 1800s and featured on HGTV. The owner has been a professional musician for 25 years and gives a performance on his 1903 Steinway piano while guests enjoy a cocktail. Afterward, walk across the street to a private mansion built in 1804 that’s been in the owner’s family for 130 years, and she personally prepares an elegant four-course dinner for guests. Named by USA Today as one of the Top 20 female chefs in America, she is a former Four Seasons Hotel chef.
TRO: Trafalgar prides itself on promoting sustainable travel practices, including being an active partner in the TreadRight Foundation. Why is sustainability so important to Trafalgar, and what does sustainable mean to you?
PW: At Trafalgar, we care and invest in the communities we visit through real support at a grassroots level; from supporting local business to working alongside not-for-profit organizations. From building schools and our partnership with TreadRight, guests experience the difference they make in the places they visit with us.
To me, that means safeguarding the beauty, cultures, and traditions of the destinations we visit, helping to preserve them for future generations.
For 2017, we will do even more with our Trafalgar Cares program, so keep an eye out for upcoming announcements.
TRO: Single travellers often see significant markups, but Trafalgar actually offers 50-100% discounts on single supplements for certain itineraries. Why go against the industry norm?
PW: We’ve seen demand for solo travel double over the past five years and this trend is continuing for consumers who want to explore the world with other like-minded people. Guided vacations with Trafalgar are a perfect fit for solo travelers so we want to make it as easy as possible. It allows them to travel safely and comfortably with others who seek a more culturally-immersive experience, and it is a fun, easy way to meet like-minded new people from around the world.
TRO: What can a travel agent expect when booking their clients on a Trafalgar or Brendan Vacations itinerary?
PW: In every given year, more than 50% of our travelers are repeat guests. For our agent partners, selling us is selling an annuity. Our most exciting statistic remains the exponential increase in single-year repeat travelers—and we are seeing that number grow exponentially. We’re a low-volume, high-margin product—and that’s where the opportunity for travel agents lies. The return on investment comes from selling a product with a high repeat factor where you can earn an industry record-high commission.
We know—and our 97% guest satisfaction validates—that authentic experiences are what today’s travelers seek and why they trust a veteran company like Trafalgar. It’s what we do best. As a leader, we feel we offer a breadth of these experiences beyond that of our closest competitors and certainly budget operators. Agents should absolutely highlight Insider Experiences early in the sales process. Use them to connect to the customer, and narrate the unique, authentic immersive experiences they’ll enjoy on a Trafalgar trip.
Our Insider Experiences are specifically called out on the itinerary pages of the brochures, and these are the most important sales tools we offer agents along with our live guest reviews to make their job selling guided vacations easy. Agents can easily demonstrate the Trafalgar difference (and the high value of our trips) by using these Insider Experiences as key itinerary selling points. Then let our past guests close the sale for them and validate what they’ve said by turning the screen and sharing our real guest reviews that have been verified by an independent third-party company.
The reality is that most companies are using the words but not backing it up with the product. Agents that realize how important this is to clients, and are featuring it in the sales process, are having unmatched success. The authenticity of the local experiences offered wins above just price point alone with today’s consumers when clients are educated by their travel agent.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
PW: A travel day from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal in India. It’s 200 miles of the most amazing, challenging, confronting, stunning, intense visual experiences humanly possible with a fantastic guide who took my mind from blank canvas to clear picture not worth 1,000 words — more like a million.
TRO: What is on the horizon in 2016 and 2017 for Trafalgar?
PW: Agents will be seeing some new technology from us which brings great richness and reward to the traveler experience. It connects guests to what they need to know before they go, and also keeps guests connected to those they love, sharing their experiences, moments, and memories as their trip unfolds.
Consumers are adopting a mobile lifestyle but at the heart of their habits is the desire to be acknowledged as an individual. The key to consider every guests’ needs and to cater to their unique wishes is our Manage My Booking registration.
This valuable information allows us to personalize their trip based on personal interests and dietary restrictions, in addition to ensuring their trip is seamless from start to finish like hotel check-ins, passport, and security checks. Vital emergency contact details can turn unlikely emergency situations into non-events.
We will also have new destinations to celebrate, so 2017 will be a fantastic year for Trafalgar!
For more information on Paul and Trafalgar, visit them online at www.trafalgar.com/usa.