Sunday, July 17, 2016

Eight Ways to Attract Affluent Clients

Saw this article in Travelmarket Report, and just in case you missed it.

Eight Ways to Attract Affluent Clients
by Monique Burns / 

This is the first of two parts.

“I don’t intend to marry for money,” a wag once quipped. “I’ll just hang around rich people till I fall in love.”

That sounds like the words of a cold-hearted gold-digger. But there is an underlying truth. Just as you find fishermen congregating around fishing holes or bowlers meeting up at local alleys, you’ll find upscale clients sharing special interests with other well-heeled types.

Here’s advice from the pros on how to attract high-end clients.

1. Offer top-shelf vacations
You won’t impress well-heeled clients with mass-market cruises and tours. By and large, affluent clients want highly personalized luxury vacations. Contact upscale cruise and tour operators and let them know you cater to a high-end clientele.

To familiarize yourself with their products, take specialist courses and fam tours offered by luxury tour operators and suppliers.

2. Advertise high-end products
Using personal contacts to attract the affluent market is very helpful. But a direct approach works well too.

“When we first started out, we advertised high-end products like river cruises in our newspaper ads,” said Chris Tichy, co-owner of The Vacation Center, which has offices in Southington, Conn., and Coventry, R.I., and is affiliated with The Affluent Traveler Collection. “As time went on, these clients referred us to other clients.”

Also consider placing ads in professional journals, business magazines and university alumni magazines.

3. Join a luxury travel consortium
Some consortia specialize in affluent clientele or have departments catering to agents selling high-end trips.

“Being part of The Affluent Traveler Collection has been very helpful to us, “said Tichy. “We do reach out to luxury suppliers, but The Affluent Collection always reaches out to us.

“Its marketing arm is fantastic. The direct-mail pieces it sends are of tremendous benefit, it offer amenities to our clients, and it puts together exclusive fam trips.”

4. To the manor born?—take advantage of those contacts
Whatever you’re selling, it helps to know how to reach your clientele. For some luxury agents, it’s business as usual.

“Growing up, I got to travel much of the world with my parents and grandparents, staying in the best hotels, so handling high-end clientele is very comfortable,” said Robert Romano, CTC, of Fugazi Travel, a San Francisco-based Ensemble agency.

Ansley Thomas, an Atlanta-based agent for SmartFlyer, a Virtuoso agency in New York, said, “I was raised in a very normal family but I went to private school in Atlanta as well as a good college, so I have a very good network.”

If you were born into wealth or attended exclusive schools, don’t be shy about approaching contacts. Ask relatives and friends for leads to well-heeled friends and associates.

5. Mix with the elite
If you were not to the manor born, all is not lost.

By attending events and frequenting places wealthy clients frequent, you’ll quickly become part of the club. “You don’t necessarily become their best friend, but you’re in their circle and they trust you,” said Thomas.

“I know an agent who didn’t have a network,” Thomas added. “She started going to bridal shows and on high-end cruises. She’s a phenomenal producer now. She worked her way into a luxury clientele without a natural network.”

6. Cultivate similar interests
Wealthy clients often are patrons of the arts.

Romano said it’s natural for him and his family to “go to the theater, symphony and opera, to old stand-bys and new restaurants,” frequented by friends and associates who just happen to be well-heeled.

You can go to some of the same places. You’re not social climbing, you’re trying to find the right match for your luxury products.

Many upscale clients also enjoy expensive sports like golf, yachting or riding. Learn to play those sports, attend fundraisers and other functions at your local golf or country club, and go to regattas, golf championships and polo matches.

7. Get involved with charities
High-end clients often are interested in charities. “Many wealthy people volunteer for or deal with charities,” said Romano, who works with charities himself.

Also consider donating to charities your clients support. “I have a client whose dad passed away many years ago from ALS, so we always do a donation at a certain time of year as a remembrance,” Romano said.

8. Keep in touch with middle-class clients—they may have become more affluent
It doesn’t matter whether you sell your high-end vacations to old money or new money. The client who bought the mass-market cruise 10 years ago might now have a higher income.

Chances are he wants to experience the finer things in life or introduce his children to them. Suggest that clients trade up from mass-market cruises to chartered yachts or from basic two-star hotels to posh five-star establishments. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Romance is the perfect match for the U.S. Virgin Islands


U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS  - The United States Virgin Islands, one of the premier Caribbean destinations for romance, has partnered with leading wedding dress manufacturer Mon Cheri Bridals to bring weddings and honeymoon experiences to paradise.

The partnership, which was brokered by, is aimed at gaining a greater share of the highly sought-after, recession-proof romance market.

"As the official bridal manufacturer for the United States Virgin Islands, bringing exposure to the Territory as a choice destination for weddings and honeymoons is of pivotal importance," said Stephen Lang, CEO of Mon Cheri Bridals. 

Lang recalled attending the 2014 St. Croix Bridal Symposium where meetings with Department of Tourism officials led to the cementing of this partnership, developed to boost business on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.

"Romance continues to be a perfect match for the USVI. Greater accessibility to our islands, coupled with no need for a passport for U.S. citizens, makes this a key market for the Territory," said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to Jacqueline Johnson, CEO of Global Bridal Group and, the romance business generates more than $100 billion annually in the United States.

"The 2015/2016 bridal market in the U.S. is expected to see more than two million weddings," said Johnson, who revealed that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that destination weddings are more fun.

According to a Northstar study, among those who have had a destination wedding, 76 percent believe these events are far less stressful than traditional ceremonies.

"With the Caribbean enjoying about 30 percent of the destination weddings market, the U.S. Virgin Islands is well poised for growth," added Johnson.

Elements of the partnership include engagement with premium bridal stores across the United States, digital promotions, location shoots, an on-island conference as well as television exposure. 

For more information about the United States Virgin Islands, go to, follow us on Twitter (@USVITourism) and become a fan on Facebook  ( When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoy all the conveniences of domestic travel - including on-line check-in - making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever. As a United States Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passport from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


It is that time of the year when the Caribbean is 'Open' for business in the format of trade shows, conferences and all manner of events where we all attend and promote or sell our different services.

MY PETE PEEVE?? The outlandish claims by select members of the media and others promoting the 'service of the month'. I am amazed to see how some of these bogus claims are said and promoted with a straight face. The audience, the circulation, the expert knowledge that is sorely lacking, the number of visitors supposedly planning or asking information on the Caribbean, and on it goes.....

And yes, if you are willing to pay the going rate you can get any Caribbean Newsletter to promote your bogus information.

Do Caribbean Suppliers/Hoteliers/Service Providers..believe most of this nonsense? I am curious, really curious. If they do, I know I should not but would be deeply disappointed to learn of this. But again why should I? This is a 'disease' that is spread right across the board. And of course what makes it so painful to watch is that the delivery of bogus information or services is usually taken as gospel from a 'learned foreigner'. A 'learned foreigner' with limited expertise or skill in the product he or she is presently promoting. You know the next opportunity provided to this person will have her or him speaking a 'new language'.

And the same goes for consultants who appear with impressive folders, the right buzz words and the right image. They offer spellbinding analysis, thoughts and promises of greater revenue and ideas. Recently had to listen to one constantly referencing the strategic battle plans of Caesar,(a man who was eventually murdered). I would much prefer to have heard the battle plan of Shaka Zulu as he changed the style of combat by developing a better shield and sword.

I am presently watching the aggressive dialogue between Brides and Bridal Guide. They both claim massive audience, but no one speaks of newsstand circulation, which is the lifeblood of the bridal magazines. Why? the internet is taking the printed word out to the proverbial 'woodshed'..and for a massive beating. In the 'good old days' it would be unheard of for Conde Nast Brides to get down and dirty in a public forum with a competitor. How things have changed, and I should say not for the best.

And this is my Pet Peeve of the Day. Of course I try very hard to be diplomatic. Here's hoping I was able to achieve this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


WANT TO INCREASE YOUR REVENUES? THINK BRIDAL MARKET! Depending on your source for information, the wedding & honeymoon market is a relatively stable one, and do provide opportunities for market growth. The economy along with consumer confidence is giving engaged couples the confidence to finally plan and book their weddings.

Will they continue with the high level of negotiating prices? Yes, do expect this, as more couples are paying for the wedding themselves. In previous years when the parents were paying for this event, the sky was the limit and serious negotiation by the parents, were considered almost an embarrassment. It is for you the Travel Agent or hotelier to understand this, and stick to your published rates. What you sell is always above and beyond what they could ever get from the internet, including SERVICE!!!

Will they spend to get what they want? Yes a whopping 70% do plan to make it the best day ever, and will spend to make sure this happens. At the end of the day, it is still a milestone in a couple’s life – and therefore the mode of transportation, hotel, cuisine, activities, etc. will be looked at differently from a quick holiday jaunt. Today’s couple will spend approximately $4,000+ on this trip of a lifetime vs $850+ (approx) for the average leisure traveler and the average expenditure on a wedding today is $27,438.* (The Wedding Report)

The Wedding Report – the premier research Company provides the most comprehensive outlook on all aspect of the wedding industry. The information below gives you a quick overview of the numbers of wedding taking place in the United States on a monthly basis. This does not include those who travel outside the Country to get married.

Weddings by Month For 2012, June and September appear to be the most in demand months to get married. The following The opportunity for you the Agent or hotelier is a year round business. And what a business this is! You have the ability to gain more revenue from one wedding that you can ever imagine – think group travel for your destination wedding couples and their friends/families, spa events, shopping & dining, before and after parties. And do not forget your alliances – luggage, jewelry (local and foreign).

Stay tuned and watch for the next article on the best way to reach this affluent and ‘must buy’ consumer. In the meantime, do not hesitate to email me if there are any questions: I will do my best to answer on a timely basis.

Jacqueline Johnson, CTC is Pres/CEO of the Global Bridal Group, a Media Company that provides comprehensive Bridal & Honeymoon guidance through interactive target marketing utilizing the following vehicles:,, http://www.MarryCaribbeanblog,

For over two decades she served on the Board of Directors of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) with the Ministers and Directors of Tourism for 34 separate countries, and for the past 10 years she has been a member of the Executive Committee.

She is also the recipient of CTO’s Medal of Excellence as one of the 50 Most Influential Persons in the Caribbean. Johnson is Chairman of the CTO Foundation, an organization that raises funds to further the education of outstanding Caribbean citizens who have demonstrated a career commitment to tourism.

You might have read recently the "dialogue" between Bridal Guide & Brides Magazine on their audience, reach and delivery, and who delivers what at a more cost effective rate. It is what it is: just 'dialogue' The true test of any magazine catering to the bridal market is about NEWSSTAND SALES. IF YOU ARE NOT DELIVERING AT THE NEWSSTAND, YOU ARE IN TROUBLE. NEWSSTAND IS THE BAROMETER THAT JUDGES EDITORIAL VITALITY. ENGAGED COUPLES DO NOT SUBSCRIBE TO PRINT PUBLICATIONS.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Direct versus indirect distribution: making the most of a love-hate relationship

Direct versus indirect distribution: making the most of a love-hate relationship

BY EYE FOR TRAVEL Oct 12, 2012

IN-DEPTH: Today there are distribution channels that offer more than just rooms. On top of this the digital and notably mobile aspects of technology are redefining the travel market and Google and Apple look likely disruptive forces. EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta investigates this rapidly changing landscape.

Working out how much to rely on intermediaries and how much to drive direct business is tricky for hotel firms. Of course, OTAs are an important and necessary distribution channel, but it is important to determine the right kind of ties.

When it comes to the critical things, the role of the OTA has changed very little. OTAs help to reach brand agnostic consumers who may not be familiar with a particular travel brand. In this respect OTA’s do a great job of packaging travel components to give the customer the benefit of one-stop shopping.

So even though hotel companies attempt to go direct, they can’t ignore the fact that travellers can be driven by other priorities. This makes certain hotel companies uncomfortable because there are many instances where online travel agencies include extras such as gift cards on the retail price so OTAs end up having the upper hand.

Understandably this does not please everybody but there are hotel companies that have also accepted the practice. Hotels understand they need to calculate the total value the business gets in terms of marketing and exposure, not least the exposure gained from an OTA listing– known as the ‘billboard effect’.

“Each channel needs to be measured on its merits and value proposition it brings to the table,” says says Brij Bhushan Chachra, director, revenue account management – India, Middle East & Africa, Preferred Hotel Group. “Today each channel has different value propositions and cost structures and as businesses it is important to ensure we maximise the same for our hotels.”

Going forward a lot more is expected from intermediaries. In the future, Chris Murdock, manager, distribution, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International sees distribution channels offering more than just a room. What we will begin to see are channels that offer experiences. “How about a channel where you indicate what type of trip you are looking for (beach, golf and so on), how far you are willing to travel and how long you plan to stay?” he asks, adding that a result set could contain five experiences to choose from.

Hotels also acknowledge more options can mean additional benefits. “One of our strategies is to reach out to a global audience, gain global awareness of the brand and its value. I believe the addition of ‘new players’ in the mix gives the guests more opportunities to view our brand,” says Murdock.

A complex relationship

Clearly the supplier-OTA relationship “is a complex one and a love-hate one, too”, says Lincoln Merrihew, MD of Automotive and Travel at Compete. “If OTAs had nothing to offer suppliers, suppliers would stop using them. If they did not offer consumers anything, there would be no successful OTAs. The advantage to consumers includes being able to search across hotel brands; one advantage to suppliers is using OTAs to dispose of distressed inventory,” says Merrihew.

The path to purchase is an extremely complex one. As Merrihew explains, in some cases, it starts with a search on a generic set of terms like ‘Orlando family adventure’. In this case, the consumer is focusing on the location. Another consumer may search on ‘Disney vacation’ and so is already demonstrating brand awareness digitally. But in general most companies with an online presence are looking to interrupt behaviour. In the above example, Disney wants you to keep going and book with them, including a hotel. But every other travel company also wants that customer too.

So not only is the consumer is faced with many choices, they are also regularly interrupted, says Merrihew. That challenge for the travel industry is piecing it all together, and correctly valuing and attributing cause and effect. For example, how a hotel values its search marketing dollars in the path from search to booking is not simple and linear. It can guess or use surveys, but the best approach is having a window across the Internet with evidence of the digital path to purchase. This allows for connecting the dots across the interruptions.

Murdock says: “What excites me most in hotel distribution today is how easy it is becoming for guests to use many of the channels available through distribution. As we move more and more into a ‘mobile’ world, many of the distribution opportunities now are literally in ‘the palm of their hand’.”

For Murdock, the whole process of booking a room today is straightforward and many distribution channels have made the process considerably easier. “Where I think there is an opportunity or what does not give me peace of mind are the ‘extras’ that you are looking for when staying at a hotel,” he says. Often the things he would like to add to his stay, such as a round of golf or spa treatment require an additional call to the hotel.

One of the other issues to be addressed is rate fluctuation as it can be confusing for buyers. Add to this the inconsistency across different channels of distribution and the consumer begins to question the true value of a hotel room.

Says Murdock: “Our strategy has always been to offer a consistent price for the same product but I do believe that some confusion at times lies in the comparison of just the price without taking into consideration the product.”

Of course then there is the reality of revenue management systems; very often properties have systems in place that could potentially adjust rates for dates in the future, impacting what the guest sees from day to day. Looking to the future

Hotel distribution continues to be about optimising channel profitability and brand awareness. Murdock says when it comes to weighing up the options for distribution, nothing much has changed. A couple of things to look at are connectivity options and source markets. “If the distribution partner can connect via connectivity partners we have this can be part of the decision. If we feel that a certain distribution partner can help us reach a source market that we would like to be in that as well weighs into distribution decisions,” he says.

The increasing competitiveness of the global distribution landscape including disruptive and innovative players like Google and Apple could be an opportunity for improved distribution economics. However, it may just be a case of the same landscape with different players and models.

Both Google and Apple have the potential to significantly disrupt the consumer travel research process. “They each have established deep consumer trust across many categories of products,” says Merrihew. However, while in some cases consumer trust of the Google and/or Apple brands exceeds any fears about using a generic supplier, this is not always the case. So the challenge for the disruptors is gaining consumer trust, offering a unique value proposition and then setting realistic expectations and delivering on them.

For Merrihew the biggest unknown at this point is how the digital and notably mobile aspects of technology change everything further. “Clearly it will redefine it; the question is when and by how much.”

With computers becoming more sophisticated he could envision consumers eventually letting an app handle their entire booking process. For example, a consumer enters that they are travelling to Atlanta. Earlier they entered brand or property preferences and, perhaps, budget constraints. The app completes the booking based on the entered criteria, including emailing hotel confirmation data and digital flight boarding passes.

That would surely reduce the work for consumers when booking but could make travel players’ ability to disrupt that much harder.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I had the pleasure of being in Puerto Rico for the FCCA conference and was truly delighted to be there.

Puerto Rico is a wonderful destination - lots of charm, romance, history, food and culture. No where is this more evident than in Old San Juan. A truly magnificent city with some of the best shopping in the Caribbean. From the Coach outlets, Ralph Lauren outlets, etc. local stores: but most of all the history. From the cobblestone streets to the historic cathedral, it is a feast for the mind. Nothing I can say in this very short roundup, can do justice to the beauty and charm of Puerto Rico.

FCCA - 18th Annual Cruise Conference
This was held at the 'state-of-the-art" Puerto Rico Conference center and was well attended by all with an interest in the cruise market. From Governments to attractions, the display of products or what the destinations have to offer to entice more ships to visit the region, was abundantly displayed. Walking the aisles when not meeting 'one & one' all the cruise executives turned out for this major event.

I attended all the sessions where the cruise executives were speaking and the mantra was almost the same. 'While we love the Caribbean, we will be putting more ships in the European/Asian markets where we can get a higher rate from passengers'. And the brilliant idea of the day is - Have your local school children greet the ships in their uniforms - this would really please the visitors to your shores. I sat there thinking, I am not hearing this right, but since it was repeated continuously, yes I did hear correctly. Unfortunately, during the question and answer period, I yielded the floor to those with more pressing concerns. However, I would like to state that "Children belong in school and not at Cruise Ship Piers welcoming anybody". They are our future leaders!!

Please be advised that the relationship with the Great Bridal Expo has been terminated. The bridal industry is one of constant change, and as the habits of the engaged couple changes, so must we change along with it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I am always preaching about the importance of Travel Agents in the Destination Wedding/Honeymoon market vs. the United States based Wedding Planner - and recently had the opportunity to visit Mexico to see over 170 Destination Wedding Planners in action. But I am getting ahead of myself.

IDO recently had their annual symposium at the El Dorado Royale Hotel in Mexico. Approximately 300 in attendance - and the hotel/government/additional private sector made sure this was a memorable event. I was very impressed. This company - provides a full service 'one stop shopping" approach to destination weddings and romance travel. And heading this dynamic company is a veteran - Edward Cotton - COO (

Of course with over 170 Home Based Agents in attendance, all the major wholesalers were there to sponsor events and plead their case as to why they should be the preferred vendor: GOGO Worldwide Vacations, Travel Impressions, Funjet Vacations, Classic Vacations, Pleasant Holidays, Aeromexico and the various Tourism partners.

Ed is quite proud of the fact that his merry band of home based agents have planned more than 12,000 successful destination weddings and has helped plan travel for more than 250,000 attending guests.And most important - these travel specialists work with the local wedding planners to get the job done.

As one who is always on the look out for her trusted travel partners - I had a discussion with Ed to find out if this symposium had a permanent home in Mexico or will he give other destinations the opportunity to bid on this event. He advised me that the next symposium (2012) will have approximately 600 - 800 in attendance and yes, he will put it out for bidding. After observing the elements of this event, I can say it is going to be a tough act to follow for any other destination

The hospitality of Karisma Hotels (El Dorado Royale, El Dorado Maroma and the Azul Beach) was above and beyond. This was hospitality at its finest. Each event outdid the other. The Mayan wedding ceremony on the beach at the El Dorado Maroma was awe inspiring and this was followed by a beach buffet extravaganza topped off with the Mayan Cultural dance. The final banquet was held at the El Dorado Royale and the ballroom was created to be a night of a million stars. I would say this was fantastic, but words cannot do this evening justice. The Sky Wedding Venue party at the Azul Beach Hotel provided an overview of the property with the beach and the sunset forming the backdrop. And overseeing all this was none other than Mandy Chomat VP Sales & Marketing: Premier Worldwide Marketing, KARISMA hotels.

Any destination, hotel or travel agent looking for an introduction, please contact me at:

I am again working with Fox Television (Ct/Mass.) in promoting the Dream Wedding Contest. Participation comes with a very small price tag and if you have an interest, please let me know. The British Virgin Islands was the featured honeymoon destination in la

st year's Dream Wedding contest.

Keeping this blog relatively short today as I need to touch bases with loved one and friends in the Virginia area with regards to the earthquake.

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