“We are the travel agent's travel agent!" says Sophie Raymond, director of sales for Canada at Ultimate Jet Vacations (UJV), a boutique luxury tour operator.
With high-end and upgraded travel being at the forefront of current and post-pandemic trends, the company that customizes packages to 5-star hotels using commercial and private jets met with Canadian travel advisors in Ontario and Quebec last month to review its services and showcase its newest portfolio: Africa.
"There are many benefits to working with UJV,” said Raymond, who joined the U.S.-based company in April of 2021. “The first one relates to our expertise and services. Our UJV agents are well travelled and offer first-hand knowledge, support and suggestions for our destinations."
The UJV team is also “always on the move visiting hotels and resorts in a hand-picked portfolio.”
“Travel partners have come to rely on UJV for insights that enhance the travel experience for clients in each destination,” Raymond explained.
UJV offers a concierge-level of service that can help travel advisors help their discerning clients get the most out of in-demand destinations, like Africa, which, as a booking, can involve several elements.
“At UJV, everything happens in the U.S., so you are cutting out a lot of waiting time,” Simon Jones, general manager of sales for Africa at UJV, told PAX. “Whilst we still have to check availability at all hotels and lodges, our team is here to speed up the process and answer any questions clients might have.”
The company makes booking high-end travel easy: each travel agent has their own UJV expert, who guides them through all aspects of the file, including flights, hotel, dinner and spa reservations, tours, transfers and any other services that may be required.
UJV also offers white label documents (agents can insert their own branding, logo and contact info on documents sent to clients), a concierge service, 15 per cent commission and also passes through consortia amenities.
“We know that agents have been dealing with the rest of the world. We want to be an extended arm of their company by alleviating any stress they might have when selling Africa,” Jones said.
“From jumping on three-way calls with the agent and client to doing Zoom meetings on weekends, there is nothing we cannot do, together, to make sure we have the perfect trip.”
The company also offers sales and marketing tools through platforms such as the Marketing Vault and Branch Up.
Africa is just one of several destinations in UJV’s collection, which also includes ultra-luxe getaways in Canada, the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, French Polynesia, the Maldives, Greece, Italy, Asia while France, Spain and Portugal will be added by Q3.
In adding Africa, UJV aimed to ensure that it could still provide the same level of service that agents are used to, separating the destination from all of its other dealings.
“Booking Africa can be a complex process and there are a lot of moving parts,” Jones said. “Our small team of experts are with the agent from start to finish to make sure nothing is overlooked.”
UJV’s Africa itineraries can range from a 14-night family adventure through Johannesburg, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, Cape Town and Victoria Falls (Zambia) to a 12-day itinerary that includes visits to Serengeti National Park, Maasai Mara National Reserve and Ngorongoro Crater.
All the while staying at some of Africa’s finest hotels, of course.
Many of the 5-star chains and independently-owned hotels and resorts offered in UJV’s portfolio (such as AMAN, Belmond, Six Senses, One&Only, Four Seasons, Cheval Blanc, and Ritz Carlton) are not offered in the Canadian market by tour operators.
Currently, UJV has more than 400 partners around the world and recently added 92 new partners from 15 different countries.
And as for helping agents along the way, relationship-focused UJV believes in the “hand-holding” process when assembling quotes and bookings, Jones said.
“We want to teach our agents and pass our knowledge onto them whilst doing so,” he said.
Africa, meanwhile, is growing more and more in popularity in the North American market and one of UJV’s goals is to ensure that agents can comfortably sell the destination, Jones said.
“We want to sell the magical continent, but in the UJV way,” he said. “That’s by offering service, high standards and creating memorable trips that keep clients coming back to our agents.”