It’s not a year to be shy about upselling, said virtually every supplier at the Avoya Travel Land Forum earlier this week. Travelers are eager to extend their land and sea vacations, and to try unique and upscale experiences. It’s up to their travel advisors to point them in the right direction—and that direction is up.
“We all want to increase the bottom line,” said Sandals senior regional sales manager Ian Braun. “Every conversation we are having we should be upselling, telling clients the things they should be doing on their next vacation.”
It’s easy to make an extra 2% or 3% commission by saying, “This is what most of my clients book and here’s why,” Braun said. The key is to phrase it as “This is what you should be doing” and not “Would you like to do this?”
Also keep an eye out for specials from suppliers, like the Sandals Triple 7 every Wednesday morning, which offers 7% off seven different select room categories for seven days. If you have a client who is on the fence about upgrading to a butler category room, for example, emphasize the extra value and use the one-week deadline to create a sense of urgency. While you’re at it, suggest a candlelight dinner or a Sesame Street tuck-in. Your clients will see other couples doing those things at the resort and want them too, so book them in advance and get the commission.
Don’t forget to think wedding-themed add-ons. Popular this year are Retie the Knot trips and honeymoon test drives that include tailored experiences for your clients. “You would be shocked at the closing rates of groups, once clients go down and experience a wedding test drive,” Braun said.
Today’s traveler craves exclusivity and Instagrammable experiences—and is willing to pay for them. Suggest the Club Mobay experience at the airport, a helicopter to fly guests to the new suites at Sandals Halcyon, or the new villas at Beaches Negril that sleep up to a dozen guests.
And, of course, work with your Sandals BDM to get to the next level. Braun’s favorite line? “All my clients from the West Coast are doing this. Do you want to include this in your experience too?”
More Tips on Selling Luxury Land
Avoya’s Land Forum this year is a two-part hybrid event, this past week online and then live in June in Mexico. About 200 travel advisors are taking part in each segment. Onhand are six new land suppliers to help with a “record-breaking Q1” for land sales, with bookings up 25% over 2019, guided vacations up 40%, and the use of preferred land partners up 40%, said Avoya’s SVP of partnerships Ashley Hunter.
The tip here: don’t shy away from suggesting land vacations, where 70% of customers will travel within six months—and their advisors will get commissions much more quickly. “In short,” Hunter said, “this is a thriving market post-pandemic, even now that cruise is back. And there’s a lot of product to sell.”
In the online Opening Sessions, suppliers offered up lots of tips to help travel advisors grab a piece of the land-based luxury pie.
*Clients headed to Europe for a cruise are already paying top fares for air, so offer up a pre and post experience for them, suggested Carmen Gashnikov of Europe Express. Destinations like Italy remain a big draw, but more and more travel advisors are planning multi-city and multi-country itineraries. To sell them, take the time to go into more detail with clients and ask questions about their preferences. “It’s not being invasive, but making sure you are customizing their experience,” she noted. Most suppliers have a qualifying questionnaire to share, and Europe Express is happy to review your itineraries to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
*Willy Fernandez of Rental Escapes agreed that lots of things that “used to be bucket list items have become to-do items. We see guests coming to villas and working with travel advisors to create unique experiences.” In their luxury villas in Jamaica, for example, guests are bringing in steel drum bands and private chefs. In Italy, what used to be the typical 7-night rental is now 14 nights, allowing for plenty of opportunity to create experiences guests have only dreamed of.
*Dian Holland of the Jamaica Tourist Board says the key is to really interview your clients. “Don’t let them think you are just clicking a key. Know how far they want to travel from the airport, how mobile they are, if they want to just step out on the beach or don’t mind walking. Find out exactly what they do and do not like, so you can put them in the right place and the right experiences.” And take advantage of the experts at the Jamaica Tourist Board, any time and for any question you have. Travel advisors cannot know everything. You have to know the whole world, she noted, while the JTB staff only has to know everything about this one island.
*Avanti Destinations is selling a lot more four- and five-star hotels and a lot more private tours, says Pascale Theurie. So don’t hesitate to pitch those.
*Portugal and Italy are exploding, said Nancy Kirner of Exoticca, and Japan is hot as well. Five-star villas are growing in popularity for their wow factor, and agents are selling them. She also noted that the company plans to add Australia and the South Pacific to its product line in the next two months or so.
*Amtrak Vacations has some luxury lodges inside the national parks, and Rail Bookers has luxury rail packages around the world, said Jim Marini. Try pitching to a client who loves river cruising.
AMResorts/Hyatt Exclusive Collection News
New partnerships in the travel industry have been the norm in 2023—including Avoya, which became part of Travel Leaders Network last year. Onstage at the Land Forum, the former AMResorts turned the talk to the devilish details in their move to the Hyatt Exclusive Collection.
BDM Angela Johnson noted that Hyatt has replaced AMRAgent.com with a new advisor website that launched May 4. Advisors will have to create new profiles, and prior learning certificates will not transfer over; travel advisors will have to take 10 core courses and score 85% or higher on each in order to certify. Courses will become available on December 1st of each year, and must be completed by January 31.
“But the good news is the new curriculum is much shorter, interactive and more fun,” Johnson said, and the interface will be mobile-friendly, so “you’ll be able to finish courses in a fraction of the time via your mobile phone.” A single sign-on functionality will make it easy to sign in from a desktop or mobile device.
For the moment, as the system switches over, travel advisors cannot register or redeem points, but the system should be ready “around the end of the month.” In the meantime, keep track of your bookings so you can update them when the new site is back online.
Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook. As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent, and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business, and technology sectors.