ILTM: Bite the Apple to succeed in luxury

da Grande'; FONT-SIZE: 10pt; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-fareast-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">Luxury travel agents have been urged to emulate Apple’s business model as a example of how to capitalise on consumers’ desire to get advice from real experts.

Alexandre Chemla, founder of luxury travel agency Altour, told a forum at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes that “the internet is confusing and our currency is our knowledge.”

“If you look at Apple as an example, people look at their product online but then go to the Genius bars in Apple stores to talk to an expert. This is missing in travel – we need more knowledge as if you want to sell an experience, you need to see it.”

?Chemla said the pendulum is swinging back in favour of the retail agent and luxury travel specialists are in a perfect position to make the most of this opportunity

“The internet is confusing and our currency is our knowledge. You can drive for miles without seeing a retail store but people need that one-on-one relationship.”

Speaking at the show, Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-president of luxury travel agency Valerie Wilson Travel, said the key to agents’ survival is to realise they are no longer just travel agents.

“Travel advisor or travel advocate would be a far more accurate term,” she said.

“To be successful, you need to offer full disclosure, transparency and charge an appropriate fee.

“Some suppliers are not transparent enough but should be – it’s not a price-point issue for the customer, they just want to know how their holiday breaks down,” she added.

Black Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant told delegates that looking beyond the industry is vital.

“People compartmentalise travel and don’t think how it relates to other aspects of our social lives or how other industries influence how you may feel about travel,” he said.

“We look at fashion, arts, film and music and leverage those passions to create experiences around them – we combine travel interests with other passions,” he