The Unsung Heroes of the Travel Industry
Words by Ken Hermer

As dire as the global travel industry presently is right now, it is going to come back. It may be a slow, frustrating, and tedious process perhaps, but it will reappear like a new butterfly, emerging from a mandatory and confined slumber. We will yet again be able to put on our travel wings and fly off to those far-flung romantic boutique hotels, tranquil vineyards, luxurious safari lodges, and exotic palm-fringed islands that have been beckoning for a long time now

As we witness the travel industry having to take a forced vacation of its own, right now is certainly the time to start dreaming about your next adventure. Reaching out to a representation company makes a fantastic starting place. They are brimming with passionate professionals who are bursting with current, relevant, and useful destination information. I should know since I used to be a highly active participant in the boutique hotel and safari lodge representation industry.

Representation companies hold a unique place in the travel industry. They are a source of extremely focused, current, and useful information about specific countries and regions. The representation companies work hand-in-glove with their destination partners and forge extremely close “family” ties with them. Because representation companies sometimes focus on specific regions of the globe, they have a more intimate knowledge of those countries. This is so useful when you want to create a multi-country itinerary. In some parts of the world, due to challenging infrastructures and services, combining several countries into one itinerary be a dilemma. Regional flight operations and vehicle border crossing conundrums are all part of the information that representatives make it their business to share. These companies typically comprise teams of passionate and knowledgeable folks who make it their business to know about every aspect of their hotel and destination partners. The sales and marketing specialists are plugged into the daily activities of the hotels, safari lodges, and resorts with whom they work. These relationships are nurtured with a hands-on approach.  
The amazing Hotel Pleta de Mar, part of The Muse Collection 
XO Private is honoured to have, as part of their family of supporters, two luxury representation companies. Vivian Chambers, Owner and Managing Director of Manhattan-based The Muse Collection, a high-end representation company, who has partnered with some sensational classic-style luxurious hotels in Argentina, England, Scotland, Europe, and Morocco. Her hotel partners boast some of the finest locations in Venice, London, Paris, and beyond. The array of Vivian’s properties is such that a traveller could have myriad hotels gathered into a marvellous mélange of destinations and experiences, all in one exciting itinerary. During a captivating conversation that she and I enjoyed, Vivian stated that she and her team regard their hotels and in-country destination specialist tour operators as partners and members of the family. The word “client” is avoided at all costs! She is presently conducting Zoom and Webinar meetings, maintaining that very personal touch. Relationship building is key to her company’s success. She was extremely excited to share that she is awaiting her membership to Virtuoso and will be getting back to her regular in-person promotional activities when the coronavirus is under control and it is safe to do so.

I also had the opportunity of engaging with the effervescent Owner & Managing Director of WanderLuxe Destinations, Tara D’Agostino. She is also Manhattan-based, and her portfolio leans more towards contemporary-style properties. Tara mentioned that The WanderLuxe Destinations hotels and resorts, all of which are in dramatic locations in America, the Caribbean, Seychelles and European island landscapes, tend to be more modern in design. Therefore, the demographic of the traveller with whom she and her team engage in a more specific age group from the mid-40s to early 60s. This is therefore slightly different from The Muse Collection’s supporters who are more broadly spread across the luxury travel spectrum. Tara also said that she regards the properties that they represent as a part of her family.

There are big benefits of being a member of the American retail travel industry and working with a representation company. If you are hungry to learn more about the superb hotel properties and regions within which these two representation companies operate, then look no further. Both arrange numerous intimate-sized annual educational trips, making stopovers at their partners’ wonderful hotels and resorts.
There are big benefits to working with a representation company if you are a luxury travel advisor. If you are hungry to learn more about the superb hotel properties and regions within which these two representation companies operate, then look no further. For instance, both companies mentioned arrange numerous intimate-sized annual educational trips, making stopovers at their partners’ spectacular hotels and resorts.

Along with memorable accommodations, you will also enjoy the local sights, sounds, and tastes of the different regions. Both companies have also established partnerships with in-country tour operators who make the trips materialize before your eyes. They all offer personalized airport welcome services and transfers to your hotels. During your visits you will be able to experience their ground services, travel in their luxury vehicles, and be guided by their expert, engaging, and knowledgeable tour guides. Behind the scenes, experiences are all tailormade. Your clients will experience the same luxurious levels of adventure and excitement as you have, a most comforting thought indeed. Long-lasting friendships are forged during these educational trips that go an incredibly long way to promoting on-going business support.

Having learned a lot, savoured some scrumptious local delicacies, and brimming with ideas for your clients, you will reluctantly depart homeward bound with a heart and head full of amazing and everlasting memories of the adventures and excursions enjoyed. Brimming with all these memories, you will be able to start selling to your audience just what you have experienced. This will be the start of a long-term partnership and relationship with your chosen representation company. You will have a huge variety of hotel properties with whom you can work along with the on-going support of their sales and marketing teams. Simply put – it is a ‘win-win” scenario.

Coupled with fabulous trips abroad, largely sponsored by the representation companies and their destination partners, you can also expect in-office presentations that typically are accompanied by delectable snacks and meals, depending on the time of day. Face-to-face relationships between the representation companies and the travel trade are vital and are a focus of their client services. Due to the present-day health circumstances, many of the presentations are taking place online and remain just as effective, however sadly without that eye-to-eye personal touch. Those days are bound to return in the months ahead.  
As a hotel owner, if you want to expand your brand awareness in the United States, now is also the time to start forging a relationship with an American representation company. Despite the present-day coronavirus scenario, having this close connection established now will become an indispensable future extension to your international sales and marketing efforts. The relationship will unfold in two parts. Your representative will need to experience all that your hotels or lodges and resorts have to offer. This is vital so that they will be armed with every nuance and service that you and your properties have to offer. These educational trips typically are best done on an individual basis so that the representative can focus attention on every aspect of your hotel’s operations and services. You will be able to showcase the magic and excitement with which you welcome your guests. How you enjoy spoiling your honeymooners, for instance, will be especially useful knowledge.

You on the other hand as the property owner, or your designated team member, will be invited to participate in the sales, marketing, and promotional events that will be arranged for you by your representative. The travel trade loves to meet hotel partners from around the world and your representative will be responsible for setting up a series of intimate countrywide sales visits to select cities and travel companies. This will prove to be an invaluable relationship-building exercise and will cement not only your future friendship and business partnership with the enormous U.S. travel industry but will also do the same for you and your representative.

I remember always asking my destination partners to sponsor wonderful prizes for the agents with which I could create an incredible and educational package. These prizes I would offer at specially arranged luncheons and exclusive evening cocktail events. Advertising the travel prizes with the invitations certainly enticed the crowds to attend. Having a promotional budget for this sort of marketing exercise pays off in the long-term. Social media plays an extraordinarily strong role in all the promotional activities made on your behalf.

At your pre-arranged promotional gatherings, where you can mix and mingle and get to know one another, the agents will be able to share with you their clients’ specific needs and special requests. This will also give the agents a far greater sense of relief and confidence in the knowledge that they have personally met you and established a rapport. They will certainly feel more confident in the knowledge that you now have a better sense of their traveller’s needs. This sort of gathering has of course been restricted due to the coronavirus, but it will be back as a highly regarded and well-enjoyed networking event. 
In addition to hotel partners, one of the most important elements needed to create an itinerary are in-country tour operators. Representation companies need in-country specialists to help them gather all the myriad elements of a trip together and tie them up into a seamless and unforgettable adventure. As in-country tour operators, you can certainly increase your business volumes by teaming up with an American-based representation outfit. Since you have localized teams of highly qualified, refined, and personable tour guides and drivers who are blessed with the knowledge of all of your cultural nuances and delights, your role is key to the success of a trip. Also knowing all the alluring nooks and crannies of your country, plus that of your neighbours as well, you are an indispensable specialist supplier to a representation company and their partners.

Often when travelling around the States, visiting the travel trade, and sharing my passion for travel to my select regions in Africa and India, I would encounter many agents who were currently agonizing over an itinerary for one of their clients. It was with such a feeling of accomplishment and joy that I very often was able to step in and relieve the stress from their shoulders by introducing them to one of my in-country tour operator partners. The sense of relief was mutually palpable.

With the Internet at our fingertips, the public is now armed with a lot more travel-related information and so finding specific details about hotels, countries, and adventures is easy. These self-created journeys have therefore become a lot more popular, especially among the younger and very adventurous generations. Planning a special trip should be a fun, romantic, and hopefully educational process. 
Once you have made up your mind that you want to travel, these travel dreams need to happen quickly. You want the adventure to materialize with as much excitement as possible and with as little stress as well. The impetus and engagement in the process need to be maintained. A representation company is perfect when helping members of the public decide where and when to travel. With all that the Internet offers, there is nothing like the personal touches and detailed knowledge of an expert representative.

Obtaining information and choosing that perfect secluded honeymoon venue at a Big Five wildlife photo safari lodge should just happen seamlessly. Perhaps staying at a tranquil and romantic vineyard on the slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain is also part of your travel dreams. A wildlife safari and the Cape Winelands make a most marvellous combination. Popular too are stunning and unforgettable family reunion villas in Provence where you can soak up the endless lavender fields and explore the gorgeous countryside and quaint villages.

Planning your trip can present extremely specific challenges regarding regional flights and cross-border transfers, to name just two services that can all too easily go awry. Having a representation company take care of your itinerary and hand it over to one of their in-country tour operator partners, will lift all the stress from your organizing efforts. There are so many options out there and deciding where to go can be the toughest part of planning a journey. It can be the most confounding, confusing, and frustrating part of the entire trip planning process. There are so many magnificent small islands and boutique safari lodges located in breathtaking wildlife regions.

Whether arranging one’s own adventures or if using the expertise of a trusted travel professional like a representation company, reaching out to the most knowledgeable source of information from the start is vital and quite frankly, the way to go. Plus, what is additionally enticing is that their services and their wealth of knowledge of travel come to you at no cost. This is an offer to be snatched up now. Happy travels!
Ken Hermer
Being Johannesburg born and raised, his whole life has been devoted to the art of travel. Ken moved to California in 2001 and has been sharing his experiences with the North American travel industry. He has travelled to many exotic and exciting places and is proud to have been lucky to have met some amazing people along the way. Ken's passion now is to write and to share his travel stories and adventures.