Luxury Travel Advisor caught up with Alexis Romer, vice president of sales for the Luxury Travel Industry at Marriott International Luxury Brands and Tristan Dowell, global vice president for Luxury, Lifestyle & Leisure for Hyatt Hotels Corporation to get the pulse on how they are working with travel advisors as we turn the corner on the pandemic.
We found there is tremendous strength in the leisure luxury segment and that travel advisors are more important than ever before to their businesses.
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Ruthanne Terrero: How are you working with luxury travel advisors in this current environment? What is the status of how you’re involved with the market?
Alexis Romer, Marriott International Luxury Brands: There is a lot of personal interaction because with bookings today, there are a lot of questions. It’s not a simple transaction. I don’t think anything is a simple transaction anymore. So, we work very, very closely with luxury travel advisors to make sure we can answer all the questions that they have and that their customers have, and that they’re prepared for whatever the situation is, wherever they’re going. This could be whether it’s helping them with testing regulations required before they get to their destination or on their way back, or the size of the units and location of the building.
There are just so many questions. Every single booking is a bespoke — if you will — customized booking that takes a lot of back and forth and communication.
Ruthanne Terrero: Tristan, are you seeing the same thing with your team?
Tristan Dowell, Hyatt Hotels Corporation: Absolutely, we’ve seen the same thing. We have to understand that travel advisors have the knowledge, they have the connections and they have the insight and, whether it’s a travel advisor in the U.S. or China, they’re all having to deal with slightly different things, like knowing where they can go and what the restrictions are.
We have to understand that it differs with each country and each region. The way we’re currently working with them is it’s a partnership. It’s always been a partnership.
Alexis Romer: Relationships have always been important; it’s a relationship business. You work with people you like and people you trust. It’s always been that way. But it’s even more important now than it’s ever been, especially because we can’t see each other, and so we cling to every interaction and every relationship we have. We crave that with people that we know and we help each other. There is really a feeling of “we’re in this together” because [the pandemic] is not just impacting only one group of people. It’s impacted absolutely everybody, globally, across the world. And so there’s a feeling of everybody wanting to help everybody else. Relationships that may have been minor before, become major now because you cling to any shred of what you know. We’re only going to get through this together by supporting each other.
Tristan Dowell: That’s such a great point you made. I think also, and I’m sure you’re probably seeing the same, Alexis, that luxury is the one space that’s come back quicker and it’s come back strong. We’ve always been nimble but we’re having to get back [to advisors] immediately to explain what’s going on. So, just back as to how we work with them, it’s even tighter, it’s deeper, it’s what Alexis said, it’s the relationships. But it’s also about understanding.
Alexis Romer: It comes from both sides, too, because the advisors now look at things from our perspective, as well, because they understand that we’ve been hurt also. We’ve lost staff, we’ve lost comrades, people we work with. We don’t have all the resources or the back-of-the-house that we used to. Sometimes you struggle to get back to someone in time. They know. The hotels are struggling. They’re not as staffed as they were. And there is a certain understanding that I feel coming from the advisors. That’s where that, “We’re all in this together,” feels very applicable because they know we’re struggling and we know they’re struggling. We’re all just trying together to move forward and help each other.
In many places staffing is not fully back. There are hotels that are still just re-opening. In New York, we just opened The Ritz-Carlton, Central Park.
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