An exclusive industry event last night welcomed select partners of Classic Vacations, a U.S.-based luxury wholesaler which continues to make inroads in the Canadian market.
The company appointed dedicated representation here two years ago following an uptick in bookings that indicated an interest in its product. Justin Heckman, business development manager, has since been working to educate travel agents on the breadth of options and quality service they provide. Classic has also been implementing small changes to cater to Canadian clientele as support continues to grow.
According to Heckman, one of the business's core strengths is relationships with hoteliers, many of whom were in attendance at last evening's soirée. Despite a common perception that Hawaii is its main destination, the company does in fact offer various other destinations across the map and while five-star level services are what it does best, travel agents can also find "best in class" options outside of that classification as well, Heckman said.
The company is positioning itself as a full-service option for travel agents, leveraging its 35-year history while also ensuring travel agents remain in control of their bookings.
"We find travel agents particularly in Canada are weary about going through wholesalers for European destinations," he explained to PAX. "I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that they've never experienced somebody like Classic Vacations, where we have a higher service level; they think that to get that service level, they have to go direct. But, we can help them. They don't lose control of their booking. It's all about partnerships with the hotels, so we work together in a different way than maybe other wholesalers do, to help make sure that client experience is everything they expect."
Attendees applauded as the BDM noted how travel agents can guide clients to their website (classicvacations.com) to view product, though prices are not listed nor is there an option to book direct. "So you can feel confident knowing that your clients will come back to you to book," he said.
This exclusive B2B strategy is important to Classic, though Heckman admitted that it does pose challenges in Canada because it's not likely that clients will walk into an agency and ask for the product.
"If someone comes in, there's an extra step for the travel advisor to explain who Classic is and what we bring to the table," he said. "The solution is time and building relationships, and that's our plan."
New this year in terms of destination is the Seychelles and a Canadian battlefield itinerary in Normandy, plus Classic is developing its options for pre- and post-cruising. Rail Europe has been added to the product line-up, and they are now connected with the Expedia Affiliate Network and Viator as well. The Viator selections have been vetted to reflect a certain standard within the Classic platform, and 10 per cent commission is paid per booking.
In addition, travel agents can earn Royalty Rewards, which Heckman said are "better than ever" as travel agents can redeem them for travel (without black-out dates).
Coming back to client services, Heckman noted that Classic offers 24-hour customer service, giving peace of mind for clients and agents alike in case of any problems while travelling. They are also there to support agents with various tools to help execute requests as quickly and efficiently as possible, each of which are available at classicassist.com or classicvacations.com under the travel agent tab.