James Phillips, President, Travelbound

Get out there and be inspired: Travelbound lives and breathes travel

James Phillips, President, Travelbound“To an extent, all travel is educational,” says Travelbound, and we couldn’t agree more. The company, which offers historic and educational trips including private, scholar-led tours in Europe, does more than just plan travel itineraries – they stimulate minds and help young travellers realize their own potential. We sit down with James Phillips, President, to learn more about the company and how agents can tap into this growing market.

1. Tell us a little about Travelbound.

TravelBound was created 34 years ago, and was bought by GTA soon after its foundation. GTA has been in the business for over 40 years. We’re New York based, but have global infrastructure, with major hubs in London, Dubai, Bangkok, as well as Sourcing offices throughout the world. We cater only to travel agents – we don’t do business with consumers. Our content allows us to provide every experience from luxury stays in urban resorts, to traditional Japanese houses. In a nutshell, we have almost 60,000 hotels split between the U.S., Europe, Middle East and Asia, as well as experiences, tours and transfers in those locations.

2. Do you work with travel agents? If so, what agent incentives do you offer?

We only work with agents. We offer seasonal promotions and incentives, but right now we’re working on a structured agent recognition program to reward loyalty. Clearly, we want to recognize the travel agent as well as the agency, and it’s really important to us that we work with business owners to ensure that we do this in the right way.

3. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, what is educational travel?

To an extent, all travel is educational. Just getting out there and seeing the world creates so much opportunity for personal development. Then there are semi-and-fully structured educational programs. Many of our customers augment a hotel booking with some kind of cultural experience, whether wine blending in Bordeaux or visiting a world-class gallery – education takes many forms.

4. What tips would you give travel agents on how to attract educational clients?

First, listen to what the guest wants. Is the sought for education delivered by a specific destination or do you put the program first? If it’s literature, you might want to think about the great cities of Europe and follow in the footsteps of Dickens and Shakespeare. If wine, then France or the U.S., for example. You will need to do some research, and we recommend that you get the commitment of the customer first, perhaps through a research fee – don’t go giving away all your knowledge for free – if you do a great job the fee will pale compared to the development that customer will undergo through the travel experience.

5. What’s new for the company in 2016 and beyond?

We’ve really been looking at our value proposition, how we can better service the customer through partnering and offering insights into what’s trending and how we can assist with that process. We have over 200 people in the field living and breathing travel. They create an amazing knowledge base and we want to have our customers get the benefit of that unique perspective. This is such a powerful opportunity, and we’re committed to assisting the customer in sharing in that opportunity. Our major focus now is on how we make that happen. We’re designing some new materials, a new website, looking at hiring an ambassador for that role and so much more. Watch this space.

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