Here's why the old model of travel agents relying on brochures is broken

Photo: Venturelli/ Getty Images.

The days of flicking through brochures given to you by a travel agent when you want to choose a holiday are long gone.

Australians are increasingly seeking unique travel experiences want more than a nod in the right direction. They want personalised service, and they want insider knowledge.

This means they are looking for new avenues rather than the local commercial travel agent.

Business Insider recently spoke to a number of travel agencies and advisors who specialise in the luxury travel market to find out what they are doing to remain successful in an evolving industry.

Interestingly most of the people we spoke to had savvy tech-driven businesses, and used innovative ways to communicate with their clients, whether it be instant messaging apps or iMessage.

According to David Goldman, joint managing director at Goldman Travel Corporation, Australian travelers, particularly those in the more affluent segment, are now searching for an alternative to travel agency franchises when planning a holiday.

“I don’t think Australians are behind, but I think if they aren’t exposed to it they don’t really get it,” said Goldman, referencing the Virtuoso luxury travel network.

The Goldman Travel Corp is a luxury travel management organisation and just won the APAC production award at Virtuoso Travel Week. It seeks to provide genuine best-of-class personal service.

“My father started Goldman Travel Corp in 1983, I started 20 years ago. I started on reception went on to be a consultant, learned the DNA of the business,” said Goldman.

“For us to have that one on one connection and be able to make contact with someone on site immediately, that’s what it’s about.

“With the various groups that are out there like Virtuoso, it’s kind of becoming an expectation in terms of the value adds. We’re building our own relationships and our network of preferred properties through Virtuoso to make sure the sugar is on top.

“And once we whet someone’s appetite with that it does become a sticking point.”

When it comes the point of difference between his business and that of a traditional travel agency, Goldman says his business offers a different level of advising.

“The (agency) model, we’re very different to that. We’re not churn and burn,” said Goldman.

“We have invested relationships with hotels, and obviously our clients, and our service doesn’t stop until our clients return home.”

Goldman said the company is also very focused on technology within the business.

“Our three big features of longevity, technology and relationships. We invest a lot in our technical ability,” he said.

To strengthen its technology offering, Goldman Travel Corp last year brought SmartFlyer to Australia. That was in part to also target the newest customer of the luxury travel market: the millennial.

Data released at the Virtuoso event showed that millennials want to explore new and unique places. They also want to do it in a 5-star hotel, and they want to leave now.

“They want to have a unique experience to tell their friends about, and Instagram if they pay a couple of hundred dollars for just a few hours. They might want to make a perfume or get a custom made shirt in Singapore.”

“It experience you can’t get by yourself, or online.”

The travel game is more than just a business for Goldman, it has been a way of life.

“I grew up in hotels. Hotel lobbies were our museums,” he said.

From a young age, he and his family got to experience many places because of his father’s job. And now, Goldman says it’s those experiences which motivates him to provide his clients with similar type of holidays.

“When I was a kid there was a hotel in Honululu that we went to for Christmas every year for 10 years. The Royal Hawaiian in Honululu, the ‘pink palace’ of the Pacific,” he said.

“As kids we used to help them fold sheets in house-keeping. The head of house-keeping, she had just come from the Philippines, and she would sit there in the room with us, and I remember she used to eat macadamia nuts out of the chocolate so we wouldn’t get an anaphylactic shock.

“I remember waking up and seeing her silhouette and it was calming. And throughout the years we would see her.

“She’s now retired but we still go back. I take my children there.

“In fact we were there two years ago and this waitress walked past, and I was like ‘Oh my god, I remember her’. And I hadn’t been back for like 10 years but I asked her if she remembered the Goldman family and she burst into tears, I burst into tears. It was a whole situation. That’s what I try to sell to my clients.”

“When it comes to this segment, and selling dreams and unique experiences, it’s all about the insider stuff. That’s what it’s all about.”

The writer traveled to Las Vegas as a guest of Virtuoso.

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