Targeting Your Niche: Luxury Travel

Wealthier clients can offer agents a stable market if attention to detail and expertise are honed

By: R. Scott Macintosh

The high-end traveler is perhaps the most coveted customer for those selling travel.

That’s because many luxury travelers are willing to pay handsome fees for trips that cater to their needs and are molded to their interests.

But while the luxury-travel market holds some of the biggest money-making potential for travel agents, to attract the well-heeled traveler agents need to give something back significant expertise.

“When you’re dealing with a client in any segment of the luxury market you need to realize that they can afford the best and often want the best,” said Bruce Tepper of Joselyn, Tepper & Associates.

“So they want to deal with experts and professionals,” he said. “They value an expert’s advice and are less inclined to do it themselves.”

Joanie Ogg, president of NACTA, says that targeting this niche can make sense for agents because wealthier clients typically are less affected by economic downturns and driven more by perceived value rather than price.

They also are used to using professional services and paying for them. The best way to target the luxury crowd, according to Tepper, is by the same means an agent would design a specialization in any other area, except with the luxury market in mind.

“To become an expert you just build around your own interest and areas of knowledge and find a market around those interests and areas of knowledge,” he said.

Music, museums, golf, wine-tasting, yachting, skiing and cultural tours are common interests and can be narrowed to something as specific as the great opera houses of Europe.

A luxury specialization can even be tailored to a certain clientele.

Tepper noted one agency that handled travel just for lawyers. In the process, one agent learned that there is an area on board an airplane where a lawyer should never be seated, the bulkhead, because there are fewer billable minutes on the flight since the briefcase has to be stowed overhead.

It’s little nuances like that that are demanded by the high-end traveler, and knowing those things, as well as the client and market, are keys to success in this niche.

Ogg also notes that attention to detail is key. “They’re not looking for problem solvers but a seamless problem anticipator,” she said.

For agents who want to target this niche, Tepper said: “The biggest thing is that it takes a radical change in mindset with how you do business. Not everyone is your client and you may find yourself turning people away.”