Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why Using a (GREAT) Travel Agent Makes Sense

More than ever, luxury travel consultants like myself need to find ways to sell our clients on the value of our services. We know the public is being inundated with emails, mailers, “twitter-only” deals daily, and unless we have something to offer that sounds better than just a low price, clients may be tempted to simply book direct.

The bottom line: We have so much more to offer clients than just the lowest rate. Our ability to help people wade through all the deals is just one reason they need our help. Case in point: A client came to me asking whether she should book a Bermuda getaway using a time-sensitive hotel promo (in this case, second night free) or if she should go for the $400 credit being offered at participating hotels. After reviewing both deals, she went with the latter since I was also able to get her a confirmed upgrade, daily breakfast, an extra $100 credit and a lunch for two at her property of choice. The first deal was room rate only, with no value added!

Another client called wanting me to find her a “great luxury cruise deal.” We spoke about some of the offers she’d received from the various lines. Turn out one deal is already fully sold out, one of the lines is not really suitable for a family with small kids and one is just too large a ship to suit her husband’s style. For this particular family, an FIT to Europe is a better option and as my client herself says, “There is no way I could possibly plan this on my own. We have no idea where to stay and we definitely want the best private guides.”

It's true, all of the aggressive pricing/promotional deals have definitely stimulated business for many properties and cruise lines. And for me, as I see this as an opportunity to truly prove my worth to my clients. It’s rare than I am unable to match any “deal” they’ve received in their mailbox; I stress to clients they’re best off letting me make the booking for them so that I can ensure the hotel is aware of their arrival, that all special requests are taken care of and that they are VIP’ed throughout their stay.

Often times, once they show me the “cheap” deal they are considering, I counter with something even better—and if not lower-priced, than with more value added. I just call these my “insider secrets.” For clients seeking more than just the cheapest room, these unpublished insider secrets are our best weapon. Once word gets out that not only did I get my clients a great rate at a hotel, but that I also got them breakfast, an upgrade & a free round of golf (valued at $350), it’s amazing how quickly my value is realized.

I always stress my personal relationships with people at the hotels and cruise lines, and my in-depth knowledge of the product. A website may be able to offer a great rate, but it can’t explain why a hotel is not the best choice for any number of reasons (location, noise, small rooms, poor service, dated, etc). These are things only I would know based on a recent visit. Now what website can possibly say that?

For more information or to book your next trip (with our help!), contact elitetravelgal@gmail.com or 310.979.9036.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite....Deals

I don't need to tell you that now is a great time to travel. You can upgrade last year's vacation (ie, stay in suites instead of rooms) for the same price (or maybe less) OR take advantage of the incredible opportunities at luxury hotels worldwide.
Personally, I'm more a fan of those hotels that do more than just drop their price when occupancies are low. True luxury these days, is all about value and the experience you get for your $$. That said, here are just a few of my favorite luxury hotel deals currently on offer (MORE to come later this week!).
The Four Seasons Westlake Village earns kudos for its creative, 2-night "Double the Fun" deal. Basically, two people enjoy a 2 night stay for the price of one, PLUS the second person doesn't pay for spa or f&b charges (equal to those of first person and exclusive of alcohol/gratuities. Best deal is on the weekends, nightly rates through Sept start at $375. As a Preferred Partner, we'll also get you breakfast for 2 and an upgraded room (if available at check in!).

I'm also giving props to the Bermuda tourism department, not for its 2-day, 50 percent off at certain hotels sale, but for its summer long "$400 resort credit" promo. To celebrate the island nation's birthday, stay at hotels like Cambridge Beaches or the Fairmont Southampton Princess and enjoy $400 to spend on food/beverages, spa treatments, etc. Our clients get an extra $100 at Cambridge Beaches, plus daily breakfast & an upgrade!

I LOVE what Orient-Express is now offering at its fabulous Italian properties, including FREE wine-tastings at Hotel Cipriani in Venice, FREE Ligurian cooking lessons at Hotel Splendido in Portofino, FREE personal training sessions at Villa San Michele in Florence & FREE cruises along the Amalfi Coast in the Hotel Caruso's Ercole boat. As a Bellini Club affiliated partner, our clients enjoy complimentary upgrades upon availability & other special perks as well!

St. Regis is also on my radar with its $375 (breakfast inclusive) intro rates at St. Regis Princeville opening October 1. Book now & chances are pretty good an upgrade is guaranteed. Families can enjoy half-off a connecting room for kids this summer at St. Regis Punta Mita when a suite is booked. St. Regis Punta Mita also has a great Golf package with rates from $645 that include greens fees for two and a room upgrade.
Last but not least, for now, two of my new favorite hotels, CordeValle & SandHill Resort (Rosewood Hotel's gems in Northern California) have fantastic summer offerings. Ask us about "free golf" at CordeValle (where our rates also include breakfast) and incredible spa packages at SandHill (the perfect spot for a meeting in Menlo Park, by the way).

I PROMISE! More luxury deals to be posted later this week. For more info on any of the above, to book or learn about the special perks offered exclusively to clients of Elite Travel International, call 310 979 9036, email elitetravelgal@gmail.com or visit www.elitetravelinternational.com.