Get Us in Your Inbox
By the time Susan Kelly was an adult, she had already lived in Germany and Japan. Growing up as an army brat, Kelly and her family were constantly on the move and in search of their next adventure. Becoming a travel agent was a natural next step for Kelly, and she recalls her first days on the job as fast-paced and exhilarating.
Now Kelly owns Luxury Adventure Trips, and she works as an independent affiliate of Travel Experts, Inc. With 30 years of experience, Kelly shares her insight on being an independent contractor, keeping current in the travel industry and top trends in luxury adventure travel.
What are the pros and cons of being an independent contractor? I wear many hats as an independent contractor. I have more freedom, and I’m able to work while I travel. I enjoy building relationships with my clients, though I also need to keep up with marketing.
Social media branding is necessary to cater to clients under 40, while older clients prefer personal recommendations. It’s also helpful to be an affiliate of Travel Experts, Inc. and a member of Virtuoso, because they help publicize my business in magazines and emails.
What advice do you have for those looking to be an independent contractor? Use hands-on, personal touches to show your clients that you care. Referrals can go a long way because new clients want to work with an advisor they can trust.
Also, follow up. Use snail mail or place a call to welcome your clients home. Just letting them know that you’re thinking of them is a good way to establish rapport.
How do you keep up with new and upcoming destinations?Travelers are looking for less crowded places to visit, but, of course, those places are bound to become more crowded over time. By attending conferences, such as the Adventure Travel World Summit, I’m able to keep up with new trends. It’s all about meeting people from small countries who are really passionate about travel and exceptional experiences.
How do you define luxury adventure travel? Activity, culture and nature are the key components to luxury adventure travel — but activity level is up to the client. It’s about getting outside of your comfort zone and exploring the world, but at the day’s end, having good food, a comfy bed and like-minded people to share the experience with is also important.
What are some trends in luxury adventure travel you’re seeing? Clients are looking for unique experiences; they want to do the things they have only read about in books. Truffle hunting in Italy and France is popular. Whale watching is frequently requested, too.
In addition, clients want to establish a personal connection with their travel companions and host. Many enjoy shopping for ingredients in local markets, and then going back to the home to cook a traditional meal with their host. Windstar Cruises offers clients the opportunity to shop with a chef and reap the rewards at dinnertime.
Travelers also want to use eco-conscious tour operators. There’s been a movement away from joining big tour groups or staying at chain hotels. Instead, clients want to explore local places, and they want their money to go back to the local communities. Travelers also tend to stay longer when vacationing these days.
What are some trends in the luxury adventure cruise market that you’re seeing? Small ship cruising is popular. UnCruise Adventures is great, and its largest ship carries just 76 passengers. Quark Expeditions is another operator that I love for polar expeditions.
Multigenerational groups enjoy luxury adventure cruising and river cruising because there’s something for everyone. The cruise market is also cornering solo travelers with more single staterooms and promotions for single supplements.
What are your favorite destinations for luxury adventure travel? My trip to Antarctica on Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Orion optimized luxury adventure travel. Everybody always talks about the penguins, but you come back remembering all the ice and the incredible shades of blue.
I love the Galapagos Islands, too. They seem like total opposites — Antarctica and the Galapagos — but one thing they have in common is that the animals aren’t afraid of people. I like being able to travel without hiding from the wildlife and just experiencing the natural environment of the place.
The DetailsLuxury Adventure Tripswww.luxuryadventuretrips.com