A question of icons

Who are the new travel advisor industry icons in the luxury segment?

While many may believe going online to make a reservation at a branded hotel site is now de rigueur, and others may go to their preferred OTA, for many affluent Americans, booking a luxury hotel anywhere in the world still means a call to their travel advisor. There may have been sustained consolidation in the past few years, but ask any general manager of a deluxe hotel around the world about the importance of travel advisors as a channel of distribution, and they will tell you this is still an important network.

That’s why shows like ILTM — with editions in Cannes, Shanghai, Riviera Maya, Cape Town and Kyoto — continue to be important. But this channel is changing as well. Early this year it was announced that legendary founder and leader Priscilla Alexander would retire from Protravel International, the company she created in 1984. Other agency greats have handed on the reins while others sold, stepped back or reduced their involvement in their businesses.

What made a trailblazer like Priscilla so dynamic and powerful was that she was engaged in the day-to-day business and built an agency that commanded respect — and not just because of the sheer volumes it generated. Priscilla garnered huge respect from suppliers for the professional way in which she conducted business and grew her network from coast to coast and overseas to London.

Perhaps the days of individuals building up mega agencies from boutique origins is past. With consolidations and groupings of agencies as the newer model, travel industry leaders will continue to emerge, and certainly the entrepreneurial spirit remains but is perhaps not as easily identifiable. Maintaining excellent supplier relations and positioning member agencies out front will remain keys to success and growth.

As the great seasoned owners retire, the new younger travel professionals are poised to become the advocates of a meaningful and robust industry in the future.

What do you think? Let’s keep the conversation going.