Relationships ‘key to retaining high-spend travel clients’

Travel brands that can demonstrate their value and expertise will be better placed to generate client loyalty, according to Kuoni’s product director.

Speaking on a panel at the inaugural Global Travel Week event in London, Claire Ross said travel professionals who had nurtured trust over the pandemic would be able to capitalise on high-spend clients as they return to travel.

“We have an opportunity now to demonstrate our value, demonstrate the expertise that we can bring to the process and really generate loyalty,” she said.

“We should have confidence in our experience through the last 18 months and share our opinions.

“At the end of the day, the way we’re going to encourage our clients to stick with us is to make sure that our guests can trust us. And I think as long as we continue to be opinionated and confident in the service that we can offer, we will deliver that.”

Google’s travel industry leader Finnbar Cornwall likened the next 12 months to the marble-based game Hungry Hungry Hippos, with travel brands jostling to take advantage of consumers returning to the market.

“I think the next nine or 12 months is going to be a bit like that [game] for the global travel industry where the marbles are like consumers coming to market,” he said.

“If you get your proposition right, you could grab a bunch of those marbles and bring people into your business. Then I think it’s down to you to show that you’re adding value.”

Cornwall said 32-42% of high and middle-income households and retirees in the UK had increased their savings over the course of the pandemic, while recent figures from Kuoni showed its average honeymoon booking value has risen by 13% from £7,985 in 2019 to £9,045 for 2022.

Ross said the jump in spend was down to clients trading up on flights, hotels and in-destination experiences.

“At Kuoni we don’t necessarily deal with individuals, we’re dealing with people who have an individual occasion – honeymoons or another special [event]. It might be the most expensive holiday they buy in their lifetime and they come to us to organise that,” she said.

“What we’re seeing is more people wanting to do that. People have got money, they’re ready to have that experience and they want a very special holiday.”

Arnaud Champenois, senior vice president and global head of brand at Belmond, agreed, adding: “Travel is a luxury. People want to invest time and more money, and they want to really make it exceptional, so that’s why I think we’ve seen a really high demand for luxury travel.

“Travellers today want to get under the skin of a destination, they want to reconnect with the experts, the gurus and the destination.

“Authenticity is everything in travel. And that’s why partners are very instrumental is curating the right experiences for their guests.”

Rachel Angell, chief operating officer at luxury short-term rental company Domus Stay, encouraged travel professionals to “focus on the customer and listen to what it is that they’re talking about”.

She said: “If you’re talking about loyalty, actually it’s all about relationships – it always has been and it will continue to be.”

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