Lusso hails role of independent travel agents at annual awards

Trade-only luxury tour operator Lusso hailed the role of independent travel agents as it reflected on “incredible growth” since 2019 at its annual agent awards.

Around 140 agents, suppliers and members of staff came together at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire to celebrate the operator’s top-performing partners and 13th year of business.

Beaver Travel and Haslemere Travel were the big winners of the night, with each agency collecting three awards.

Radlett-based agency Beaver Travel won the coveted title of UK Agent of the Year 2023 as well as Northern Home Counties Travel Agent of the Year. Director Sally Wallis also picked up the Individual Award for Highest Sales.

Haslemere Travel was also named among Lusso’s top-five UK travel agents for 2023 – alongside Worldwide Escapes, Cherry Travel and RB Collection – and was recognised as the Southern Home Counties Travel Agent of the Year.

Managing director Gemma Antrobus also won the Individual Award for Excellence 2023 for her contribution to the luxury sector during the pandemic.

Emma Mackley Private Travel won Homeworker of the Year 2023 while Victoria Bebb Private Travel was recognised as New Travel Agent of the Year 2023. Di Cherry of Cherry Travel won the operator’s Managing Director’s Award 2023.

Other regional awards went to Kenneth Macleod Travel, Norseman Travel, Ventur Luxury Travel, Feherty Travel, Exemplar Travel, Howard Travel, World Travel, Sovereign Travel, Select World Travel and Spear Travel.

Speaking at the event, managing director James Weaver insisted the brand’s agent-only ethos remained unchanged.

“When we [launched the company in 2010], there were some who thought we were crazy,” he said.

“100% agent only – some genuinely said ‘that will never work… [travel agents] are not the future’. Why did we do it? Why did we believe in travel agents?”

Weaver highlighted a quote from a speech he gave when the operator first launched that said the brand had been created to “truly champion travel agents”.

“As more and more [start-up] companies are going online and offering heavily discounted business models, for us they are missing the point and that is that in sourcing luxury travel, clients above all else want personal service, expert knowledge, flexibility, and professional advice, which for us is all of you in the room tonight – the independent travel agent,” he said.

“Never was this more apparent than [during the] events of 2020 and 2021 and the value of personal service, human empathy and the resilience of you all as travel agents.”

He added: “Fast forward 13 years later, ever more tour operators are placing a greater emphasis on their travel agent relationships, ever more operators are reaching out to work with agents and ever more new agents are continuing to start businesses.

“Therefore, I just want to say: thank you for backing us, thank you for believing in us and thank you for proving us right. Agents are not just surviving but thriving.”

Weaver said Lusso had grown by 33% compared to 2019, posting its best-ever annual sales figure of £24million.

The last 12 months have also seen six agencies achieve ‘millionaire’ status with the brand.

Weaver said the operator currently has the “strongest team we’ve ever had”, with more than 40 members of staff covering “the widest amount of destination and product we’re ever featured”.

Lusso has introduced new product areas such as Africa, Europe and, most recently, Canada and has developed existing product in the USA, south-east Asia, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.

The operator has also strengthened its reservations and administration teams and developed a new department in After Sales to improve post-sales support for agents and their clients.

In addition, Lusso recently appointed its first responsible tourism and sustainability manager to continue progress towards its sustainability goals.

“Being agent-only, our successes are naturally a reflection of your successes,” Weaver added.

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