One of our directors, Kyle Stewart, was interviewed by Daniel McCarthy of the Travel Market Report about the definition of luxury for its Master Advisor series. In the interview, he shares with other travel agents the latest trends in the travel industry and outlines what his concierges (travel advisors) encounter with clients at a luxury travel agency. He shares that his client base values time over amenities and peace of mind over price. Take a peak behind the curtain in this video to see why so many are booking luxury cruise lines to Antarctica and tour operators to Africa.
A transcript of the conversation is below:
Daniel McCarthy [00:00:01] All right. So hello again and welcome back. This is our first Master Advisor session for 2023. Today is January 12, 2023. This is episode number 64. Overall, I hope everyone’s New Year got off started on the right foot. We’re very happy to be back here on Master Advisor. We have a great travel advisor here today to talk about luxury travel. We have a sponsor we want to introduce, but I just want to make a few announcements first. So if this is your first time here, welcome. We just have a couple of tips that will make today’s episode the best experience possible for you. The first is to switch into speaker view on your zoom. And the second is that the chat on the bottom right is on bin, and it’s going to be remain open throughout the next 45 minutes or so. I’ll do my best to grab as many questions and comments as possible as we go along today. We really think that adds a whole lot to these sessions, so please don’t be shy in there. Drop any questions, any comments, anything you think is relevant in there and we’ll do our best to incorporate it into into the session. Also, we had a big 2022 en masse survivor. We covered a lot. And for anyone who wants to catch up or rewatched sessions, they’re all available for free on demand. On our YouTube page, Tom just dropped a link to that page in the chat right now. So when you have time and you want to get some insight on fees on how to operate Tik-Tok. Instagram reels on seems there’s a lot of stuff that’s available for you to watch in there whenever you have the time or you where you want to check it out and scroll through. I mean, speaking of master advisor, we’re going to be back here again exactly two weeks from today at the same time to talk about something we think is incredibly relevant for childhood advisors who who spend any time working with clients through December or through this week. We’re going to be talking about the best way to deal with travel interruptions, how to communicate to your clients about it, what to do, how to remain calm. And we’re very, very excited about that. We have two child advisors book for that session. And again, that’s back here in two weeks. You can register for that session pretty soon and we’ll make sure everyone who attended this session gets access to that registration pretty quickly so we can fill up that board. But we think that’s going to be a really exciting and really relevant session. So we’re hope to see you all back here in two weeks. All right. So with all of that out of the way, let’s go ahead and introduce our sponsor for today’s episode. We have ADD the Affluent Traveler Card collection here to help us bring bring you today’s content. And we have Claire from Affluent Traveler Collection joining us to give us a few words before before we introduce our travel advisor. Thank you so, so much, Dan, It’s a pleasure for us to be here with you today. So on behalf of the Affluent Traveler collection, welcome, everyone. You know, this is such an important topic for us to be discussing right now, because we know, especially since COVID, the mind of the travel customer, luxury travel customer has changed. They want different things than they wanted in the past. And it’s really up to us as those within the industry to really understand who they are, what they’re looking for, so that we can deliver the highest level experience to every single one of these luxury travel customers. The great news is the luxury travel market is growing. There are new customers coming into the marketplace today and they’re bringing in all new kinds of thoughts on what they believe luxury travel is. So I think we’re going to have a great session today. I’m really excited about it. And I know Kyle has a lot that he’s going to offer to us. So with that said, Dan, I’m going to hand it back over to you so we can get this started. Thank you all again. Thank you, Claire. And thanks to Affluent for for helping us out today. And with that, like you mentioned, I’m very, very happy to welcome our guest for today’s session, Kyle Stewart, who is the president of the Scott and Thomas Travel Agency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’s here to talk to us about what luxury travel means today, how that definition is changing with different clients. And sort of we’re going to get to the temperature of the luxury travel industry as we head into the middle of 2023. So, first of all, Kyle, thank you so much for for joining us today and for lending us your your time and your expertise.
Kyle Stewart [00:04:17] My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Daniel McCarthy [00:04:18] And so I want to I want to go through today’s session. I want to talk about sort of like what I mentioned in the last thing, and then introduction is sort of what’s going on with the luxury travel market right now. And then I think we’re going to get into what the definition is and how it is changing in your opinion. But I’m curious because it’s something we’ve heard about a number of times, probably at the latter 2021 into 2022. And even today there was this thought that there’s this pandemic boom for travel. There’s other things going on. Now we’re hearing about economic worries. We’re hearing about downturns of the economy. I’m just curious on your end, has that post-pandemic room run out for travelers at all, or are your clients still sort of laser focused on on getting on the road?
Kyle Stewart [00:05:01] Yeah, we are seeing no slowdown right now. We had pretty heavily researched the, you know, post-pandemic pent up demand build out. There’s lots of metrics about that and that carried through. We just really haven’t seen a slowdown. All the numbers continue to climb. So if you look at, you know, the TSA numbers, that sort of thing. But but most importantly, just just look at how many customers are coming through the door. We don’t really see that slowing down. And, you know, to your second part, kind of talking about the economic downturn and, you know, whether or not that’s on our customer’s radar, that’s something where, you know, we feel personally in the luxury market, we have less exposure to that. and really what we’ve found is that the more stress that is accumulated in the world, especially with our wealthy customers, the more likely they are to need a vacation. So we’ve actually found quite a bit of insulation from those concerns. But then some other folks that still have some pent-up demand and frankly, the rush to travel that’s pushed prices up, whether it’s your guest last week I think was talking about the air in Los Cabos being, you know, significantly higher than it had been in the past that’s supporting, you know, some of those luxury positions and gets everybody’s pricing thoughts up. So so I actually think it’s still a benefit. I don’t see a slowdown right now. Everything inside me says that it has to slow down at some point, and I’m sure that it will, but we just haven’t seen those markers yet.
Daniel McCarthy [00:06:44] Yeah, that that’s that seems to be what we’re hearing from suppliers, too. It’s interesting that you hear the words about how travel just seems to be incredibly valuable to consumers, whether they’re luxury travelers or whether they’re mid-market travelers. It seems to be the thing they want to spend their money on now, especially. I mean, COVID was a significant time in world history. So I think we’re going to keep seeing those effects of COVID, whether it’s I know it’s three years, but it’s still, I think, in the back of people’s minds. We have a poll we want to launch just to get a taste of who’s in our audience today. We have close to 100 advisors with us. We’re just wondering where their primary focus of your business is, if it’s in luxury so we can sort of tailor the rest of this conversation to that. So Tom’s going to go ahead and launch the poll now. But I do want to ask you, Kyle, before we get into that new definition luxury, is there anything that’s trending amongst your clients, any destinations that are taken market share or had sort of peak interest that you haven’t seen in the past? Anything surprising? Any products getting more interest than usual?
Kyle Stewart [00:07:42] Yeah, we’ve seen a huge push for Antarctica. And that’s actually been the predominant movement of our business. But it’s kind of interesting, too, because it’s not just necessarily about the destination, but doing those once-in-a-lifetime trips. We’re actually rebranding our agency to kind of go down delivering once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, because what we found is that it takes away some of the requirements. So, for example, if you know, before booking a big cruise, you would kind of need to have an interest in cruising. But with Antarctica, it’s the only way to get there. So they don’t we’re finding that about 60% of our folks have never been on a cruise of any kind before. And so we’ve found that it’s really more about the destination. I think Instagram and TikTok probably have some influence on that. And we’re just now seeing a lot of coverage around that exact thing. So a bunch of people have started posting videos and stuff about going to Antarctica and penguins and that sort of thing, which is helpful to us, frankly. So we have seen a huge shift there, but there’s so many good products that are coming onto the market. I think more generally speaking, you know, algae and AMR becoming part of Hyatt introduces them to a new market. IHG picked up a ton of hotels that are in the all-inclusive space. And so travelers that aren’t necessarily, you know, all-inclusive type folks are getting introduced to those things. So I think that’s really interesting, too. And then some of those overwater bungalows have come away from the Maldives and are finding their way in the Caribbean. And I think that’s going to be a huge trend, too. So I think that that that’s kind of where we’re seeing. But more than anything else, I think what people really want and what they will always spend their money on are kind of the irreplaceable trips, the ones they talk about in five years, the ones that put them in the center of the cocktail party. And that’s really what we try and do with our clients, is put them in the center of the cocktail party. So we want like a little group kind of huddled around them, you know, asking about whatever it is. And we’ve found that there’s a lot of great products for that. We’re big fans of Seabourn. They’ve been a great partner for us and they have one of the best products going to Antarctica. And it really delivers for us, you know, kind of a seamless luxury experience. But Explorer looks really interesting and I think they’re launching in July this year, so that that could be compelling as well. I think everybody’s really excited about the epic new cruise ship that just came out. So there’s tons of great advancements. But I think too, we’re seeing a ton of focus and development at the top end of the market. And that’s great because that puts more options in front of our customers.
Daniel McCarthy [00:10:40] And I just want to have one follow-up on that, Colin, that you mentioned, that Antarctica is giving people the option to cruise that maybe wouldn’t consider before. Does that make you think that makes an impact long-term with your clients? Is that once you get them, if you get them on a cruise ship, especially a luxury cruise ship going to Antarctica, you can get them on a cruise ship in another region or destination that’s outside of that of Antarctica.
Kyle Stewart [00:11:03] I think so. But I think really it’s a combination of a few things. So it seems like, you know, my wife and I have been traveling for a very long time outside of I’m actually a relatively new agency owner we’ve only owned for two years, but I’ve been a travel writer for over ten. And so we’ve been to every continent except for Antarctica yet. And what we’ve found is that, you know, when we looked at the Antarctica previously, you know, there were big these big icebreaker ships, you know, Russian dorms, that sort of thing, you know, one porthole. And what they’ve introduced into the market because they’re sailing at better times, is a much more comfortable experience. Floor-to-ceiling, windows, balconies, marble floors, all that kind of stuff, a true butler concierge-type experience. And so so I think that’s the difference. And I think that can get people into cruising that wouldn’t otherwise. Cruise Nobody wants to you know, at least our customers don’t want to sign up for the tiny pool at the top of the deck where you got to get up at 6 a.m. and go put your towel out to make sure you have a lounge chair. That’s just not the type of experience they want. So it’s kind of some of the benefits of, you know, river cruising where it’s a smaller group of people but on a much larger ship with more amenities.
Daniel McCarthy [00:12:20] Yeah, I think that’s a perfect way to put it. I think that’s good information for cruise suppliers especially to have. So I just want to share the results of the poll we ran. We have about 63% in here who have their primary focus in luxury travel. So we hope this conversation helps you build that business. And we hope that 37% who don’t have that primary focus can take something out of this, too, and help them build their business. But I want to get into the topic of the day, Kyle, and that is. This new definition of luxury travel. I know that’s a term that’s been used. Constantly throughout the last decade even, is that luxury travel is trying to change. But I wanted to ask you for your definition of your travel. And I want to start with price, because I think that’s probably what people believe to be the best thing that you can sort of use it to define a luxury trip for you, for your clients. Does luxury travel necessarily mean a high price point?
Kyle Stewart [00:13:12] No, it’s actually it’s I’m so glad you brought that up, because that’s really I think the biggest flaw when people talk about luxury travel. Luxury, anything really, for that matter. It’s not about the price. And I think the easiest example of that is you can get to $20,000 on a Carnival cruise for a single cabin, but it’s not going to have the same service points that you’re going to have for $10,000 on Seabourn. They just won’t be able to nail the finer items. You know, the Butler service, the level of detail, the anticipation of needs. It’s just not native to their brand. And that’s okay. Be Carnival, be Seabourn, you know. But using price to define it, I think is is a huge mistake. We took back-to-back trips in I can’t remember 2017, maybe to Beijing and then to Aruba. And obviously very different markets. We stayed at the Park Hyatt in Beijing, and I think it’s a Hyatt Regency in Aruba. Maybe somebody in the comments knows. And the difference was when we’re at the Park Hyatt, because service is a Nate to what they’re doing. They had a little TV there set up for my daughter and they had like a little panda bear with a Park Hyatt ribbon on it, waiting in the room before we even arrived. Anticipating our visit, they were calling us by name, Right? We get up to breakfast in the morning. It’s an included benefit. It’s one of the included benefits, actually an affluent traveler collection. And when you get up there, you know, it’s a huge buffet or anything off the menu. And my daughter’s about two at this time. And she says, you know, the server asked her what she’d like to drink and she says, apple juice and they don’t have apple juice. So what happens, though, is about 5 minutes later, she brings out this cup of apple juice. And they had hand squeezed an apple that they had pulled from the buffet in order to make sure that she had her apple juice. And then, you know, fast forward to that trip to Aruba and we’re in the lounge where tropical juices are just part of the the deal there. And, you know, it’s it’s served yourself and out of a cardboard carton in the lounge. And the price one was actually was twice as expensive to go to Aruba than it was to the Park Hyatt Beijing. But I think I think the point is that service is not innate in that’s, you know, kind of that business hotel approach. Whereas in a luxury brand, it is. And so there are those kind of elements that, you know, luxury brands are going to do things differently. And I think it’s important to look outside of the industry. So, for example, if you want to buy a BMW or a mercedes, but you don’t have time to come down for a test drive, they’ll bring it out to you. They’ve done that for a decade, right? It didn’t take them COVID to learn that if you I bought my wife a Burberry coat some time ago and I got a handwritten thank you card in the mail. And that’s so much more preferred to an email blast because six, seven years later, I’m talking to you about a card that probably took her ten or 15 seconds to write. But it’s that touch. It’s the service mentality that goes along with it. So I think the concept that we attribute price, especially when we’re seeing prices as high as they are right now across the board, the trading price and luxury is just a huge fallacy.
Daniel McCarthy [00:16:52] So there’s a couple of things I just want to ask about quickly on that. You mentioned your experience dictated how you were able to know about these different kind of experiences that those two properties. You say that I mean, how important is your own personal travel to be able to get those details to talk to clients? We’ve had we had an advisor last in 2022 who spoke to us about a similar story with her children and knowing that this resort was able to provide her with late-night food that her children wanted just because she stayed there. I mean, I know a lot of advisors know the power of their own travel, but just I want to get it from your words. How important is that to be able to do on your own?
Kyle Stewart [00:17:29] Well, I mentioned that we’d been, you know, travel writers, my wife and I, for ten years prior to this and kind of reluctantly got into this business. And frankly, it was because we just didn’t find the right market fit. So we are our own customer and we know what that customer wants and needs and try and serve that first. But I think, you know, it’s important that you I think I think in 2000 they said “eat your own dog food,” which is, you know, a tech term for saying like you need to try your product. And so if you want to be a luxury agency, you need to be out there experiencing those things and you need to be annoyed, you know, by the same things that your customers are annoyed by. Right. So I think I think one of the things that was really interesting from our previous conversations was, you know, I mentioned that I’m a I came or what year? But a couple of years ago I was top tier with American Executive Platinum. I was united one K but then I was also spirit gold at the same time. And the reason is because we spend a lot of time in Florida. And so we fly down there and Spirit and the top tier of OneWorld or Star Alliance, those don’t usually fit. But the reason why is because I just don’t want to take its connection on a two-hour flight and make it four and a half. That’s not luxury to me. Luxury, to me is being able to leave my house at 830 in the morning and have my toes in the sand by 11:00. And so that’s that’s kind of important to remember, too, is that there are other elements to luxury than just the price. It’s time, it’s convenience. We have I mentioned to you as well, we just had a customer that booked Nobu in Los Cabos. And, you know, it was $1,000 a night for the exact type of room they wanted. But they’re flying southwest and they’re flying southwest because it was the most convenient time. It had nothing to do with whether or not they had a slightly wider seat. They’re all going to have to take a connection anyway. It was just about which one was most convenient. They don’t care about the 2 hours that it takes to get there or two-hour flights or whatever it is. It’s more important that it aligned with their schedule because their time is a valuable asset too. So I think it’s important that we throw away some of our notions and really look at it as, yes, luxuries about price to a certain degree, right? Like there are some minimums to get in the door, but there’s also the element of time, convenience. Those are really the things that people are buying and then service. Okay.
Daniel McCarthy [00:20:04] Yeah. So I want to talk about what you mentioned. I want to talk about pulling those details out of clients and knowing whether it’s service, whether it’s local, whether it’s convenience, like you mentioned with your flights, Why that’s important for travelers, how to get that information and to know what the appropriate to book for them. But I also just want to ask about something you mentioned earlier in the week when we had a call. Is that how important location can be to clients, too? Because I think that’s underestimated to how important being where you want to be in a city and a destination. How important is that when you talk to larger clients is knowing where they want to be and placing them in the appropriate location in a destination?
Kyle Stewart [00:20:44] Yeah. A great example. I was just in Paris a couple of weeks ago and we booked two different hotels because we wanted to try them both. And one is in Vendome, which is a very well I say ritzy area. It’s literally next to the Ritz and the very one that Princess Diana left from. So it’s it’s very plush, Cartier, all that kind of stuff. Louis Vuitton is a huge store. And so you’re in the right environment there for a true luxury experience. But my daughter is eight and just loves the Eiffel Tower and everything. Paris And so I also. Tonight at Canopy by Hilton, which is definitely not the same level as Vendome properties. But when we walked out the balcony, the Eiffel Tower was right there. And I realized while we were there that this is actually what our customers want. So they don’t necessarily care that this one $600 and doesn’t have the marble floors. But then when we go to Vendome, we don’t have that view. We’re not in the same space. And even though it might have some of those service and luxury elements, sometimes location is really the key element. They don’t want to spend 30 minutes in a cab trying to figure out the Paris metro. They want to walk out the balcony and look up at the top of the hour to see the Eiffel Tower just shining and shimmering and doing what it does. So that’s really important. And it’s important to keep an open mind and continue to learn. Because when I asked our clients and kind of shared that story, we found that 3 to 1 would have preferred the hotel with fewer amenities. That didn’t hit those luxury items as well, but had that perfect location. And so it’s important to keep that in mind. Absolutely.
Daniel McCarthy [00:22:35] Yeah. I mean, is it ever a difficult conversation to have a clients to explain these little details? We’re not these little he but to explain how important location is to something that you know you’re going to you’re going from a five-star hotel to a four-star hotel, but your location is better. Is it ever a difficult pitch to to to explain that to them? Or is it, like you said, is it pretty easy for them to pick up on want you explain your own personal experience?
Kyle Stewart [00:23:00] It’s not hard because we start and this actually goes back to one of your questions I didn’t answer. We start our conversations. When we start with a new customer, we start with the conversation. We want to learn about them. So we have, you know, kind of a standard few items, but it’s really just to understand more of who they are and what’s important to them. And so one of those questions is if you have the choice between an eight-hour layover but a better experience in the lounge or in a business class seat versus getting right there on a nonstop flight in 3 hours, which one would you prefer? We want to give them choices that are antithetical so that we kind of learn about who they are. Would you rather stay in? We’ve added this one now. So would you rather stay in, you know, the ritzy area with the nicer things and the higher level of service? Or do you want to be right in the middle of the action? And would accept something that was maybe a lesser level of service. And so so it’s really part of those conversations. And I go back to comparing luxury travel to other luxury experiences. So if we take the Burberry example for, you know, in this case or Louis Vuitton or whatever your, you know, person manufacturer of choices and you walk in, you you don’t have you have an experience where somebody greets you at the door, they’re well-dressed and they’re just having conversation with you and asking a bunch of questions. The other thing you don’t find in those stores is a million options. So you might have 20 or 30 different choices and that’s it. It doesn’t mean they don’t have more, but it does mean that they’re not going to put those many choices in front of you. And usually when someone walks into one of those stores, they walk out with a bag and a receipt. So learning from those examples and how we choose to do things, and actually we’re redesigning our site because of this. So our website right now is not where we want it to be, but we went out and looked at Balenciaga, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, you know, a bunch of different brands from across a few different industries and we’re looking at it. What we noticed that’s commonality is, you know, for example, certain types of fonts, certain spacing. And we look at that and we realize that our customers like space, they like exactly what they’re looking at to be easy to look at and minimalistic. And so this isn’t about building a website, but it’s more to say that there are examples out there that you can find that set the tone for what you expect. I think the other thing that’s important is, you know, when you walk into a restaurant, you pretty much know without looking at a menu whether or not this is the right environment for you. There are certain aspects of it that just tell you right away whether or not this is the right fit for whatever the occasion is. And so you’re going to know if it’s just a Tuesday night and you’re just grabbing something quick, that this might not be the spot for you, the same way that you’ll know exactly where to take somebody for an anniversary or a Valentine’s Day dinner. And it’s those cues that we see that tell us without having to tell us what kind of experience we’re going to have. And so we’re trying to give those same elements to our customers. So we go out and when we we realize that a lot of people are just having conversation. And so when we see those other luxury experiences, just having a, you know, a question and answer period, but feeling like a conversation, we build that into our CRM so that we know, you know, how to satisfy our client without them asking when they say, Yeah, we want to go ahead with that trip, we already know that they’ll pay. They’ll pay more for premium economy, but under 6 hours, they’re just not going to pay for business class. And that’s fine. We already know that they’re going to be in a window or an aisle. So we so the service element is not having to ask again.
Daniel McCarthy [00:26:54] All right. So we’ve been over. But adding to that call, we’ve been over service, location, price. There’s one other thing I want to ask about before we get into how to have this initial qualifying conversation with clients to pull these details out of them, be able to best serve them. I mean, it’s just interesting. I had a supplier talk to me recently about what they consider luxury, and one of the words they used was exclusivity. And I’m just curious what your opinion and ours is on that on. Do your clients want that want to be want to have an element of exclusivity throughout their vacation? Is that important to them, especially the clients who, like you mentioned, are spending a significant amount of money?
Kyle Stewart [00:27:32] Yeah, I mean, to some of them it really is. And what we try and do is bring them packages that are, you know, private and we try and bring an element of it that allows for that. But there’s also moments, too, where, you know, they just want to be in the middle of everything on in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. You know, that’s the experience that they want. So the exclusivity is how do you get them there? Where do they stay? They don’t want to be in a high, you know, in a tower. Well, above all the action. They want to be down there, shoulder to shoulder with everybody else. So there are times for it and there are times where that should be ignored. Where we try and deliver something unique and special is we don’t send our clients, you know, a phonebook-sized cruise inventory of every ship and every possibility that they could possibly want. They just don’t get read in our experience for our customers. Instead, we try and really narrow the choices, kind of looking at the other options and the other markers in the luxury space and really giving a limited window. And, you know, we can book anything, obviously, as our customers know, but we’re just not pushing everything. So I think by doing that, we are kind of creating a level of exclusivity in that we’re not offering every choice on the menu.
Daniel McCarthy [00:28:53] Oh, that’s interesting. That is a good way to put it. And I know I know a lot of advisors, again, we have a little over 100 advisors with us right now, and I know a lot of them feel the same way. If anyone has anything to add to this sort of new definition of luxury, you can put it in the chat. But we do have one comment and Melinda says she kept for her capturing the emotions that your clients are looking for during vacation is important, being intuitive and anticipating about their wants. And she says, which is a great transition for us. She says qualifying call is the most important part of sale and that’s what I want to talk about next Call is having that qualifying call. I’m pulling these details out of them because I know every agent does it differently and I know there isn’t necessarily one or two right ways to do it, but because of the clientele you serve, I’m curious if you could sort of walk us through that conversation you have with your clients and to figuring out what that ideal option is to pitch them?
Kyle Stewart [00:29:49] Yeah, I think so. So again, we try and offer antithetical choices. We want to offer two ends of the spectrum and make them make a hard decision. So that’s one thing.
Daniel McCarthy [00:30:02] What do you mean by two ends of the spectrum?
Kyle Stewart [00:30:04] So, for example, is it location or is it luxury? You can only do one or the other, right? We want to make them choose which one is more important. We want to know where they’ve been that they loved. We want to know what honor I would say. You know, you’re talking about qualifying initially. I would also say the follow-up call afterward is more important and you need to find out what they hated, what they would never do again. Right. Because that’s going to again inform how you do things. I think you we always ask what is what’s a trip they’d like to take in the next 12 months? And then we always ask for what’s one that that you would love to take sometime before you die? You know what’s at the top of the list? If money was no object because that starts to tell us a little bit more about them and about what they think is realistic. Usually, though, too, you know, when you talk about the qualifying, we grab their credit card to store on file for their convenience, and we often find that we get, you know, a variety of different answers on that. But it’s not usually a debit card. It’s usually an American Express of some sort. And we ask them about their benefits to make sure that they’re getting their benefits. But that also tells us, you know, is this a gold card, a platinum card, a Centurion black card? Because that obviously helps us to know what they kind of expect and also what they’re entitled to as well. It also, frankly, is another way that we can use some of that as leverage and help. So if we know, for example, that they booked with their American Express card and they have some sort of an issue, we have more recourse and can help guide them through that process, too. But, you know, in terms of what do we talk about initially is we really want to go back and forth between two choices that are very different. You know, if you have a choice between first class or you have a choice between a shorter route and a nonstop flight, which do you prefer? You know, if price is no object, would you rather go to an all-inclusive in the Bahamas? Or do you want an overwater bungalow in the Maldives? Because, you know, everybody thinks they want the Maldives. But when there’s nothing around and it’s, you know, 24 hours of travel, it actually changes quite a bit. So so we want to find those types of answers initially and then go from there.
Daniel McCarthy [00:32:35] Okay. I’m wondering, because you mentioned we mentioned sort of surprises in the beginning of call. Are there any misconceptions that you need to throw away when you’re having these conversations and when you’re trying to plan out these kind of pitches to your clients? Is there anything that ever surprise you that you want to share and any anything that you think is valuable for the rest of the audience to hear right now?
Kyle Stewart [00:32:58] Yeah, Well, I mean, you know, I had mentioned to you that the last time that I flew that direct flight on Spirit to Florida and I’ve got the big front seat for 50 bucks more, you know, the guy next to me owns 50 rental properties. Right? And so why is that guy who’s a multi, multi-millionaire flying spirit? And it’s because of that time element, which is why that’s so important and kind of deeply ingrained. But I think the other thing about surprises is that, you know, not everybody has the same mentality that you do. So I would see, for example, going back to Nobu, having a private pool is really important to me. But when you talk to your customer and hear that they, you know, they’re very excited about the all-inclusive options or whatever it may be, it turns out that the swim-up bar is really important. So having a swim-up entrance into their room is much more of the social aspect they’re looking for. I don’t consider it luxury, you know, for people have. Access to the back of my room via the pool. But for them, that was an element that was important to them. So I think I think the most important thing is just to throw out the misconceptions and just really listen to your client and give them choices that, you know, seem very opposite. It’s not just window or aisle, it’s economy or premium economy or business or first. I mean, are you going to pay first prices at two times the cost for the same six-hour flight overseas? Maybe, maybe not. You know, is the service that much better? And some customers will say yes. And other customers will say, when I come back from Europe, I don’t pay anything more than premium economy because I can’t sleep on planes no matter what. So, okay, great. Let me tailor that right. It’s about tailoring exactly the experience. So I don’t know if that answered your surprise question, but I that’s what I’m surprised by.
Daniel McCarthy [00:34:52] Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. Maybe I mean, you mentioned a couple of budget airlines. We mentioned Southwest. I mean, maybe these airlines should have a different conversation. Part of the marketing these options, because it does seem like a level of convenience, no matter the experience in a lot of these vacations, is going to be incredibly important to people, even if they’re spending a significant amount of money. I mean, save people, especially that that sort of stems from the conversation over COVID two is that people realize that time might be more valuable than anything else, than in products than than than something else. Like knowing that knowing that a client wants to take advantage of as much time as possible seems to be an incredibly important thing. You want to pull out of them?
Kyle Stewart [00:35:34] Yes, absolutely. I mean, everybody just lost three years, right? So and, you know, we had slowed our own travel because even when you could meet the requirements or go back or they open the borders or what have you, it still wasn’t the same experience, you know, And I want to have the same experience I had before. So, you know, people like us just tabled it more or less for a couple of years. But, you know, to the domestic and the Caribbean side of things, just to go back to your, you know, the conversation about budget airlines, really, I mean, in fairness, if you’re not booking first class, it’s a pretty budget experience with the major carriers as well. And I mean, Southwest has free entertainment on their planes. Delta has free entertainment on their planes. Southwest is long offered free messaging, you know, for their customers. And, you know, Delta is just now adding free Wi-Fi. Right. So, I mean, the experience. I think the other thing is that not every customer lives in New York or L.A. and so if you’re not flying cross-country and you’re going to connect somewhere, I don’t really see a huge benefit in connecting in Charlotte or Dulles, for example, instead of Baltimore or Atlanta or, you know, whatever it may be. So I think that’s part of the conversation, too, is, you know, just how drastically different is your experience if you book a first-class ticket, if it’s offered to a short, you know, a short-haul, like I live in Pittsburgh, right? So if even if I book first class in United, for example, but if I connect in Washington Dulles, I’m not even going have a first-class seat anyway on that segment. So what do I really care? You know, and I think that’s really important is, you know, people that have money don’t want to throw it away any more than anybody else. You know, there’s no advantage to that. So they’re very careful with the other elements. And there’s just frankly, there’s not a lot of service distinction when you look at the domestic market and then really the near Caribbean. Now, if we’re talking Hawaii or cross-country, it’s different international. You know, the Southwest and Spirit don’t really, you know, entertain those markets, at least not trans-Atlantic. So that’s less of an issue.
Daniel McCarthy [00:37:55] So there was a couple of comments I missed from earlier and I think a couple from Kimberly who earlier said that luxury, some for her luxury so much about getting what the client is looking for. Like we’d like we’ve mentioned today. Do you get them out of the way spot they want to they make the trip seamless so they never have to wonder how they transitioning from thing to thing place to place. And then Kimberly also just recently said that the flight scheduling from our local airport is horrendous. So while it is improving, we do pay a premium for folks just to fly here, which I guess goes up when you say Kyle is that can be in a lot of these times is going to be very valuable to these kind of clients. And we have a question, Sandra, and I think it goes back to sort of getting that credit card information card. I don’t know if this is super relevant, but I’m going to ask it anyway. She just says, Where does the concern for security fit in the conversation when you initially get that credit card? But I assume it’s all sort of a part of your operations and your CRM.
Kyle Stewart [00:38:48] Yeah, exactly. So it’s it’s stored with whatever it is, 256-bit encryption or whatever it is, whatever’s compliant. So there is a compliance to this and you just need to make sure whatever you’re storing it is compliant. But we grab our client credit cards all the time, so as long as the storage element is secure, then then you’re covered. Is this the answer?
Daniel McCarthy [00:39:10] I mean, does getting it first and upfront, does that make the booking more convenient for your clients? Because I assume that they want convenience when they travel. They also want to maintain their relationship with you.
Kyle Stewart [00:39:20] Yeah. And we also want to make sure that we’re qualifying, that we’re letting them know at that point that we we’re going to be able to take care of it if they on a whim, decide on something, we’re already going to know, hey, they didn’t give us enough detail. They’re in the middle of a meeting or whatever it is. So we know they prefer Marriott. We know that they want this type of seat. We have their card on file, do the booking. Right. Like the service element is that bit of it. And when they get out of their meeting or they get more time or whatever, you know, we can always undo anything that we’ve done. We’ve done they, they don’t like, but we don’t usually get that. Usually they just want to walk out of their meeting and have an itinerary waiting for them. And so that’s not possible. Obviously, if you’re going back and forth on the credit card details or whatever else it may be. And so so that’s just one area. But we also grab their frequent flier details, their preferred rental car, and then secondary and tertiary options for that because, you know, sometimes Hertz isn’t available or national doesn’t have cars or whatever it may be. And going back to combining some of those things. Right. So is location or luxury more important if we know that they have to be in a meeting in downtown Houston? But there’s, you know, the Marriott’s oversold or whatever it is. We know that they would rather be close and stay at a Hilton then to, you know, drive into downtown Houston at 7:00 in the morning or whatever it is. We already know that about our guest. So, you know, to one of the commenters that said, you know, that onboarding call’s really important, I couldn’t agree more, but it really is you know, the name of our travel agency is Scott and Thomas Travel personalized because it’s about knowing that guest. And so when we have that 15 to 20-minute call upfront, we’re starting to explore those things, but we’re also getting the answers that are going to help us when we go to make a quick booking. And once you make one of those quick-fire bookings, which will happen, then, then you’re able to kind of make them a customer for life because they realize how convenient it is and just all the details are handled and they’re handled to their preferences. And that’s really what makes us different.
Daniel McCarthy [00:41:32] Yeah, so we have less than 10 minutes left, please, if I. What is the question? McConnell You’ve been dropping in the chat and will we have some time? So we want to get to any of your personal questions that you can get to them. But just going off of what you said, Karl, you mentioned earlier in the call buying that coat and getting the note about the coat and you mentioned the service that the premium or luxury car providers were giving or giving to their customers. I mean, is there anything else you’ve learned from these other luxury brands outside of travel that make sure their services is at the at a certain level that you’ve brought aboard your agency, that you’ve made a part of your day-to-day workings in your conversations with clients?
Kyle Stewart [00:42:11] Well, yes. So one thing is convenience and communication. So when you ask people like what breaks down and whether it’s a client relationship or a just personal relationship, it tends to be communication. So we try and overcommunicate if we can, but we stay in touch with them while they’re on their trip. Make sure they don’t need anything. See if there’s anything else we can get them. We try and point out things that they may have overlooked. So remember you. You wanted this tight connection. You’d have more time in your destination. But I just want to, you know, remind you that you have that type connection. I think the other thing, though, that we do that’s different kind of lending from those luxury brands is, is we try and sell something in terms of a personalized gift. So, for example, you mentioned, you know, taking something back from your vacation and sometimes a souvenir. Right. So it’s a I heart New York shirt or whatever. But there’s other times it’s a different element. And so, for example, we just partnered with a candle company which has captured some of these travel sense, too, to let them bring some of that home. If you stay in certain properties at the top in the Marriott or Hyatt, for example, they use Lei Labo, which is an incredibly expensive toiletry brand, right? It’s like $300 for a bottle of shampoo. But when you’re in the hotel, you have it and it smells amazing. So sometimes we’ll send a little gift of that back to them, right? Never a whole bottle. Okay. But, you know, it’s something that that kind of exudes that. And to remind them because frankly, when they’re using it three months from now and they’re washing their hair, they’re taking it back to, you know, that that room service breakfast that they had or the time they really connected with their partner or whatever it may have been. So we try and find ways to bring the vacation back to them and give them constant reminders that they’re ready to book their next one.
Daniel McCarthy [00:44:12] Yeah, and that is interesting. I’ve heard that before and I’ve heard and seen the marketing because there are a lot of these hotels, especially the high-en nozzles that do have a signature scent. I know that. And I know they sell these candles and that that is such a creative way to sort of remind clients of the vacation they took in the service you provided. So that is a really interesting way to wait, a way to sort of thank them.
Kyle Stewart [00:44:34] Well, you know, travel is a feeling, right? Travel is an emotion. And so, you know, it’s funny because I started my travel blog over ten and a half years ago with 70 readers, and we got to 3 million a month. And, you know, the reason why I started it was the scent. And if you’ve ever been to Bangkok, I don’t know if you have, but you know, it’s oppressive heat. It’s like it feels like it’s 120 super humid, just like someone’s breathing on your neck and you pull up in front of the lay meridian and, you know, it’s it’s got all glass is like kind of design clever and reflective and all that kind of stuff. The door opens, though, and it’s 72 degrees and this scent comes over. They’re literally pumping into the vents. They have a machine and they pump their signature scent into the vents. Right. And you’re instantly transformed to this complete other world inside of that, you know, moment. And so that’s inspiring. Right? And I would also say that sense is one of the strongest senses that you have. So being able to you know, and it’s also overlooked. So being able to emote that later is, you know, it’s powerful.
Daniel McCarthy [00:45:58] So we’d one comment. Our last comment here from Patricia. We have another one, too. I read this both Patricia says time is the only renewable, only nonrenewable asset. Colleague do a great job protecting your luxury client’s time and your time. So kudos to you. And Kimberly says, We had that experience in India talking about the sense and she’s still trying to hunt down the scent that they use in the necklaces they gave us when we checked in. So clearly, that’s a powerful thing for a lot of clients, a lot of travelers. But we’re just about out of time. Is there anything you want to add, Kyle? We’ve been through a lot today and it really was a great way to kick off our year here at Master Advisor. But is anything you want to add, anything you think we’ve overlooked or anything you want to wrap up before we say goodbye?
Kyle Stewart [00:46:39] I think I think just really focusing on that time is a luxury as much as service. Forget about the price. Doesn’t matter. If you can deliver on the service elements, you’ll be in good shape. And I also think that, you know, it’s really important to look at peers outside of the industry to find ways to stand out and kind of, you know, go shoulder to shoulder with those other luxury brands that will help propel you forward, I think.
Daniel McCarthy [00:47:09] Well, again, Kyle, thank you so much for your time. This really was an incredible way to start the year. Hopefully we’ll get you back because I know I can see the comments. Everyone really enjoyed you. Thank you to everyone for joining me today and for being a part of the conversation. I hope to see you back here in two weeks. We’ll talk about dealing with travel interruptions. I mean, for anyone who came in late, you can watch the session will be up on our YouTube later today. So again, thank you, Kyle. Thank you, everyone. Thank you. Affluent and Claire. And I hope to see you guys all in a couple of weeks.
Kyle Stewart [00:47:38] My pleasure. Thank you.
Daniel McCarthy [00:47:39] Thank you.