“Just being a travel advisor is not enough these days,” said Gavin Miller, executive vice-president of Travel Edge. “You have to be better than you were before and those who are masters of their craft are really going to succeed.”
Last night (Sept. 13), nearly two dozen travel masters gathered, in person, at Toronto’s Hotel X – the only hotel and resort complex at Exhibition Place – to discuss sales and strategy (with a focus on Vienna) in preparation for the travel boom that is expected to erupt as COVID-19 vaccination rates climb and border measures ease.
The opulent dinner kicked off Day One of Travel Edge’s Limitless conference, a virtual event that gives Travel Edge advisors (officially referred to as “Personal Travel Designers”) an opportunity to connect with suppliers, and each other, and grow their business.
Travel Edge, a luxury-focused agency specializing in leisure, corporate and events, and tours, organizes Limitless every few months to keep its travel designers inspired and informed during the pandemic, offering up the latest in market trends, as well as fresh experiences that clients can discover.
“Limitless is a vehicle by which we connect, learn and grow,” Mr. Miller told PAX at last night’s event, which was sponsored by the Vienna Tourist Board in partnership with Air Canada.
Between training webinars, Q&A opportunities, and networking sessions, the conference is a “wonderful thread that ties our community together.”
“People are spending 40% more"
As the world carefully reopens to tourism, it’s a good time to talk strategy.
In the luxury sector specifically, the notion of “revenge travel” – the idea that travellers will take “revenge” on their inability to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and spend more on bigger, longer, more lavish trips when they’re able to – is real, Miller said.
Miller doesn’t particularly like the term “revenge travel,” saying the industry should focus on supporting the sustainability of destinations instead, but it’s nonetheless a concept that is driving the rebound.
“People are spending 40 per cent more than they were pre-pandemic, from staying in destinations longer to buying a more comfortable seat,” he said. “All of that is going to continue.”
Moreover, as global vaccination rates continue to rise: “The world is now getting on with things.”
“People are realizing that we have to live with this virus,” Miller said. “The next six to 12 months are going to be a really interesting time for the travel industry. I think there’s going to be a huge, huge surge.”
Travel Edge, which has offices in Canada, the United States and Bermuda, is getting ahead of the curve with targeted branding initiatives aimed at capturing the premium market.
“We have a renewed position in the market, anchoring the message that Travel Edge is the place to book for luxury travel in all aspects,” said Miller.
There’s a “huge untapped market” for high-end, concierge-level service, he said, from securing the “best tables in town” at restaurants to having that expert knowledge in knowing where to go while in destination.
“People can do it themselves, but they don’t get access to the behind-the-curtain experiences that we can offer,” Miller said. “With us, when you book that trip to Cleveland, or Cincinnati, or Cape Town, or Kolkata, we add value by making every trip special and look after all of one’s travel needs.”
Attendees at last night’s event belonged to Travel Edge, whose sole focus is to help American and Canadian clients Be Well Travelled.
And there’s a good reason why Travel Edge refers to its team members as “Personal Travel Designers.”
“It’s about designing one’s whole travel portfolio,” Miller said. “There’s never been a better time to be in this industry, looking after a customer’s travel needs because the complexity is huge.”
“The travel advisor is back.”
All eyes on Vienna
The Vienna Tourist Board is also eyeing the luxury market as global travel resumes.
On July 21, Air Canada restarted its Toronto-Vienna service with three weekly frequencies onboard its state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner, giving Canadians an opportunity to reconnect with Vienna’s iconic landmarks, museums, coffee houses, cuisine and classic architecture.
“The flights are doing very well,” said Armando Mendonça, president of AMPM, which represents the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada, last night. “They’ve exceeded expectations, which is great.”
On Oct. 1, Air Canada codeshare partner, Austrian Airlines, will also resume direct service to Vienna from Montreal.
Travel Edge and sister company Kensington Tours recently joined the Vienna Tourist Board’s portfolio – a relationship Mendonça called “a good fit” given the company’s influence in the luxury market.
On hosting last night’s event: “We’re looking to continue the momentum of promoting that high calibre of luxury that Vienna offers,” Mendonça said.
Last night, as part of a draw, Air Canada gave away two complimentary air tickets to Vienna, which was scooped up by Personal Travel Designer Nasim Amir.
It's a timely win after Austria, on July 8, unveiled relaxed rules for entry and pre-travel clearance for Canadians, paving the way for a tourism reboot.
Located in northeastern Austria in central Europe on the Danube River, Vienna is shaped by an artistic and intellectual legacy due to the many famous figures who once lived there, including Mozart, Beethoven, Sigmund Freud and Gustav Klimt.
The city, which has already gone through many stages of reopening, is home to some 850 public parks and gardens, 200 castles and palaces and more than 100 museums.
“Vienna is always rated as one of the most livable cities in the world,” Miller said, who has visited the European city “countless times.”
“With livability comes parks, culture and a great standard of life. It’s a real interesting place to explore.”
“If people haven’t been to Vienna, they’re missing out.”
Travel Edge’s Limitless conference runs until Sept. 15.