TORONTO — The Travel Corporation’s close partnership with the trade has always meant high volumes of agent bookings for its many brands, but Luxury Gold is off the charts, with 90% of bookings for the upscale brand coming through agents, says Ulla Hefel Böhler, Global CEO of Luxury Gold in an exclusive interview with Travelweek.
Hefel Böhler just wrapped up a whirlwind nine and a half months with the debut of Luxury Gold’s 2019 World Collection, complete with its own 2019 worldwide magazine showcasing all 55 of the company’s luxury guided journeys. The magazine is now in distribution to travel agents.
Normally a 12-month production cycle, this year’s edition is out two and a half months earlier than last year’s edition. The early release is a result of feedback from both agencies and clients, says Hefel Böhler. “I challenged our team to get this year’s magazine out in 9.5 months, we said ‘let’s make it happen’ and we did, and the collection looks fantastic,” she told Travelweek from her home base in Switzerland.
The collection is worldwide but with Europe’s popularity it only made sense to release the magazine with a good amount of lead-up time to Europe’s strong fall travel season, says Hefel Böhler.
Luxury Gold travellers generally book six to 12 months in advance but, like everything in the travel industry these days, the booking window spectrum is more likely to see close-in extremes than ever before. “We see bookings coming in well over a year in advance, and then we get bookings three weeks out,” says Hefel Böhler. “It’s a sign of the times. We get busy professionals who find a spare week and really want to treat themselves.”
The 55 luxury guided journeys in Luxury Gold’s 2019 collection offer “extraordinary VIP experiences with the emphasis on personalization and exclusivity for every luxury client”.
The experience can be further enhanced with the introduction of Luxury Gold’s exclusive Chairman’s Collection, curated by the Travel Corporation’s Chairman, Stanley Tollman. A special extra exclusive experience has been included on select departure dates. Exclusive Chairman’s Collection highlights include everything from an opportunity to meet ‘Legendary Locals’ like Princess Anita von Hohenberg at her Austrian castle, to making music in Nashville with Grammy winner Charlie McCoy, to spending time with a Canadian Olympic skiing athlete (while enjoying local red wine) on the Majesty of the Rockies / Trans-Canadian Grandeur trip.
Luxury Gold’s dedicated Travelling Concierge assists each guest to personally tailor their holiday based on their preferences by taking care of every detail. Clients also get the added enhancement of ‘My Luxury Gold’, an online hub which allows them to touch base with their Travelling Concierge prior to departure.
There’s also Your Way, with a choice of included experiences so that clients can customize their journey. On days with ‘Relaxed Starts,’ for example, Luxury Gold travellers can enjoy breakfast in their room at no extra charge. “It’s all about choice and flexibility,” says Hefel Böhler. “It’s a luxury holiday and the devil is in the details. We asked ourselves, what are the little things that we can improve on? Everything can be tailored and personalized.”
Bespoke journeys are another new offering and clients can now create their own tailor made independent holidays including Greece, Ireland, Scotland and Africa.
In addition the 2019 World Collection includes five new luxury guided journeys with a selection of exclusive VIP experiences, luxury hotels and dining:
- Ultimate Ireland – 12 days
Travellers will meet author and food critic, Trevor White during an after-hours visit at The Little Museum of Dublin and receive a signed copy of his latest book. After exploring Dublin, they will also enjoy a Michelin-starred dinner at L’Ecrivain, renowned for its flavourful classic French cuisine. Guests will end their journey with a two-night stay at the 5-star Ashford Castle, part of sister company’s The Red Carnation Hotel Collection.
- Castles & Kingdoms – 20 days in Britain and Ireland
Guests will experience the exclusive Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London which has been carried out every evening by the Beefeaters for the past 700 years. They will dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Bath and enjoy a VIP twilight picnic at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in the Yorkshire countryside. The journey also offers a special Chairman’s Collection experience, meeting the Duchess of Northumberland for a private garden tour at her home, Alnwick Castle, on select departures.
- New England’s Magnificent Autumn – 10 days
An after-hours tour of the Norman Rockwell Museum, housing the largest collection of his illustrations, memorabilia and photography, is one of several highlights on this tour.
- America’s Captivating Pacific Northwest – 8 days
The Pacific’s Northwest’s coastlines provides the backdrop for a Highlight Dinner at Aqua El Gaucho, Seattle’s best waterfront dining experience with stunning views of Elliott Bay. Guests can relax during their stay at Seattle’s most historic hotel, The Fairmont Olympic with almost 100 years of luxury service standards.
- Remarkable Russia with Trans-Siberian Option – 8 or 22 days
The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg opens exclusively to Luxury Gold clients for a private, after-hours visit on this trip. In Moscow, guests can explore Grand Kremlin Palace with a behind-the-scenes visit to the Royal Apartments. For the Trans-Siberian Express option, clients will spend an evening at The Ritz-Carlton Moscow before continuing their journey on board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.
Asked about Luxury Gold’s top trip from the Canadian market, Hefel Böhler is quick to respond: Ultimate Italy. “It’s been the top selling trip from Canada for the past few years,” she notes, adding that Peru and India journeys are also popular from this market.
And with about nine out of every 10 Luxury Gold bookings in Canada coming from the trade, that adds up to a lot of commission for travel agents. “We are very trade focused, we always have been,” she says. “High-end clients want good advice and they want to work with a good travel counsellor. They don’t want to spend hours or days looking for their trip online. The higher up you go, the more important travel agents become.”
Selling Luxury Gold “is literally a gold mine for travel agents,” adds Hefel Böhler.
For a limited time 2019 Luxury Gold bookings qualify for a 10% Early Payment Discount. Bookings must be made and paid in full by Jan. 31, 2019 to take advantage of the maximum savings.