Ways to reach the destination are becoming more luxurious, says If Only sales and marketing director Gordon McCreadie

Historically, everything to do with long-haul travel was about the destination, and often the route taken was a means to an end more than anything else. I’m sure we’ve all flown indirect to save a few quid for a nicer hotel, or maybe for a connection with a better time because waiting in airports was exhausting. Now however, the travelling has become part of the overall holiday experience and particularly in relation to luxury travel.

Resorts and hotels know being flexible is key to retaining the ‘golden goose’, a repeat customer, so there’s no longer the rigidity of “check-in at 3pm, check-out by 10am”. This approach is allowing consumers to make travel the key element of their trip. Cruising, rail journeys, first-class cabins on flights, business-class seats on coaches, airport lounges, limousine and classic car transfers, there is now a chance to enhance a holiday before your clients have arrived at their destination. Is transportation now as important as accommodation?

Demand for luxury

Having recently launched our own Luxury Cruise Collection, it’s become clear that the demand for spacious penthouses, suites and villas is very high. Celebrity’s Solstice-Class Penthouse Suite is one of the most enviable at sea, with 400sq ft of veranda and a baby grand piano.

Flights too have become a way to relax, with airlines such as Emirates picking you up from your door in a private limousine, taking you through express check-in to your departure lounge, allowing customers to be sipping a glass of something cold while others are still waiting for their Uber to arrive.

The cabins now offer refinement and relaxation normally reserved for five-star hotels, and Etihad’s First Apartments are no exception. They are completely private spaces with the finest leather seats that convert to 6ft 8in lie-flat beds, private dining options, champagne and a bathroom complete with shower – passengers will arrive more refreshed than when they set off.

Romance of rail

One form of transport that has seen a renaissance is rail. There seems to be a real romance about rail travel that doesn’t date and with some world-renowned journeys on iconic trains, it’s easy to see why. It’s possibly the most immersive form of travel, allowing you to see intimate landscapes, providing a real snapshot into the local culture and people. The polished mahogany, crisp white tablecloths and chic cabins of the Eastern & Oriental Express transports guests to a bygone era and provides a real sense of history and nostalgia that you can’t put a price on.

There’s a general consensus in sales that too much choice can lead to indecisiveness or confusion, but travel may be the only industry where I’d disagree with that. It’s all about finding the right balance between product range and offering viable pieces of the jigsaw that will not only fit for your clients, but will ultimately deliver the seamless experience they use travel professionals for. It’s this specialist knowledge, practical understanding and care that makes travel agents the key to providing the immaculate itinerary from start to end.