Thursday, June 24, 2010

The new high-end ballgame

No.1609 ( Report Linked from TTG ASIA)

More players – established operators and newcomers alike – are cashing in on the luxury trend

Asian Trails, Thailand
Laurent Kuenzle, group managing director

The Bangkok-headquartered regional destination management company launched its VIP Treatment programme last  year.
Why we entered the luxury travel market We’ve handled the luxury travel segment since our foundation in mid-1999 but did not formalise our services until last year. We introduced our VIP Treatment programme to better cater to the needs of VIP clients.
Who our clients are Small specialist companies (travel agencies) or anybody who knows VIP clients. We have two levels – VIP Gold and VIP Platinum. Agents wanting to impress their client and clients with specific preferences can fill up a form on the service they need.
The most extravagant request we’ve received We’ve had many, mostly related to people. We held a 20-person birthday party on a mountain in Myanmar. Guests were driven in 4WD vehicles to the mountaintop and then changed into their tuxedos. We had to provide them with tailormade meals so we brought the chefs and all the cooking ingredients with us, and turned a mountaintop into a five-star venue.
Our proudest moment When our clients – mostly famous people, millionaires and Hollywood stars – walk up to us, shake our hands and thank us personally. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal who they are.
Biggest myth about the Asian luxury market That all clients are the same. It is key to know clients individually. It can be a Chinese millionaire, a Japanese top executive in a multinational company or a Hollywood star. We have that knowledge and that’s why we get many repeat VIP guests.

Thomas Cook India

Vishal Suri, COO, Leisure Travel - Retail

The Indian domestic and outbound giant launched Indulgence, its dedicated luxury travel division, in November 2009.
Why we entered the luxury travel market The hugely fragmented Indian market does not have a player who can cater to the needs of the luxury segment. As Thomas Cook is a powerful brand with a high degree of recall, it was appropriate for us to fill this need. Indulgence offers luxury holidays across the world and integrates critical travel essentials such as meet-and-assist services at airports, lounges across the world and home delivery of foreign exchange at preferential rates. One critical value addition is the service of a dedicated relationship manager per client.
Who our clients are We are concentrating our marketing efforts largely on below-the-line activities targeting select clients. We are also tapping our corporate database and are reaching out to the CXOs (chief experience officers) of companies we deal with in either our corporate travel or foreign exchange arms. We also intend to leverage on existing relationships with non-competing players in the upscale segment such as luxury cars, premium sports, private banks, jewellery, and the like.
Biggest myth about the Asian luxury market  That India is not as luxurious as other markets.

Holiday in Style, Hong Kong
Jacqueline Kung, managing director

Hong Kong DMC, The Events Team, set up its luxury travel arm earlier this year.
Why we entered the luxury travel market Hong Kong does not have an operator that is dedicated to just luxury travel. Right now, this market is catered to by agents who also sell group tours and therefore may lack the personalised and customised attention to detail that this segment requires. Operators misjudge this sector and think it is just another market segment. To be successful in this field, you need to have specific knowledge of destinations and what would work for the jetset crowd. I’ve been in the travel industry for 28 years and have that knowledge. Our aim really is to fill the market with enthusiasm about individual luxury travel.
Who our clients are We will go after wealthy expatriates and high net-worth individuals in Hong Kong and China. This is a very big market. For instance, we’re preparing a 20-person tour to Finland that costs HK$80,000 (US$10,281) for 10 days with airfare. Most of the takers are expatriates living in Hong Kong. We will build our base through word-of-mouth and our website will be up and running in three months’ time.

Lightfoot Travel, Singapore

Simon Cameron, managing director

Lightfoot Travel set up shop in the Lion City last September and prides itself on its executives’ thorough and intimate knowledge of luxury haunts and local travel tips in the destinations it sells.
Why we entered the luxury travel market We noticed a lack of inspiring, service-oriented travel operators in Asia. This region has a plethora of high-earning and discerning locals and expatriates who take frequent trips. While Europe and America have several well-established boutique tour operators, Asia has a huge gap in this market. Our company was thus born from the demand for a premium travel service and a brand that inspires and wows.
Who our clients are From Asia residents to honeymooners from afar, looking for honest and impartial advice for individually-designed escapes. They are cash-rich but time-poor, with demanding jobs and busy lives, so they need travel professionals who know their budget and understand their specific needs – be it the best family-friendly villa with babysitting services or a sunset dinner on a sailboat in the Mekong Delta.
The most extravagant request we’ve received A client wanted to try out our spear-fishing course in Lombok. He wasn’t keen on travelling by boat or serviced flight so we got a private helicopter charter to transport him to a beach in Southern Lombok. From there, he was picked up by a long tail boat for a few hours of spear-fishing with an expert guide. After a lunch of freshly barbequed fish, we choppered him back to the Amankila in Bali.
Our proudest moment Coming to the rescue of a distraught honeymoon couple. They had booked their honeymoon to Thailand but the recent unrest in Bangkok forced them to cancel. With just a day’s notice, we sent them off to Sri Lanka where they stayed in the Ambalana beachfront boutique hotel, had a private elephant safari and visited the cultural triangle. Our proudest moment was receiving a handwritten letter from them upon their return, thanking us for the “honeymoon of their dreams”.
Biggest myth about the Asian luxury market  That Singaporeans are always on the lookout for a cheap deal. The modern Singaporean now looks for more than an off-the-rack package tour. The unique quality of their experience is more important. They’re willing to spend big bucks on travel and are more discerning when choosing who to travel with. They want to ensure they’re getting an exceptional holiday at the right price, and want value-added services such as tailormade itineraries, personal consultants and someone to call in an emergency.

Dynasty Travel, Singapore

Clifford Neo, managing director

Dynasty Travel’s new Signature Tours product line offers more than 20 premium and customised itineraries. It is expected to deliver S$20 million (US$14.3 million) to S$25 million in sales in its first year of operation, and eventually account for 50 to 70 per cent of revenue. The agency will unveil its S$500,000 Royale Dynasty luxury travel outlet at Marina Bay Sands later this year.
Why we entered the luxury travel market People are getting more affluent and selective. Singapore’s conducive business environment has led many top companies to move their head offices here, creating a constant inbound flow of business tycoons and investors. Big events such as the Singapore Air Show also attract top-notch delegates who demand the best accommodation, finest dining experiences and limousine transfers. Some fly in on their private jets; others on first or business class. There definitely is a market for a dedicated luxury travel operator and this jives with our objective to seek out new business opportunities.
Who our clients are Singapore has become a second home for the rich and famous. This segment of the market is used to exotic and luxurious travel. There are also those who come to Singapore to enjoy the perks of luxury, such as prestigious club memberships and high-end personalised shopping. We can help these high net-worth individuals integrate in Singapore’s affluent community. Singaporeans have likewise grown in stature and wealth, thus luxury travel has become part of their lifestyle.
The most extravagant request we’ve received A party of eight asked us to book an executive jet to fly them to an exclusive beach villa in Central Vietnam.
Our proudest moment Every satisfied customer we’ve handled.
Biggest myth about the Asian luxury market  That our resorts in Asia are not up to mark, compared to those in the west. Now, we have exceeded all expectations.

By Ollie Quiniquini, Sirima Eamtako, and Anand and Madhura Katti

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