A Private Travel Designer was “Good” Pre-Covid, it became “Better” in COVID-Era (current period), and will be your “Best” choice Post-COVID (future, after we have a vaccine).
Why do I believe this? Is this mere speculation or a fact? Or is this an effort to promote the concept of engaging a Private Travel Designer for your current and future travels? May be, and Why not for the better of the Industry?
Pre-COVID, there was a growing demand amongst discerning clients to engage Travel Designers for planning and executing their holiday trips. Believe me such decision by clients and citing the organic growth in demand for Travel Designers was based on merit, traits and expertise as illustrated below:
Private Travel Designers: A New Hope: Episode I
It starts with the whole concept of Travel Designers, which is basically boutique agencies owned and managed by a handful of experts, with a very focused portfolio of offering high-end bespoke trips to their clientele. Mostly do not run full service agencies, like Travel Agents offering full gamut of travel services under the sun.
The Travel Designers are not Jack of all Trades, but Specialists, in their respective areas of expertise, offering services for private tailor made journeys as their base at the forefront of their operations.
More-ever these Private Travel Designers do not run their business models on basis of fast churning of files, but on basis of high quality, value driven client engagement, which results in them handling a select number of clients who need and appreciate their time and expertise.
Generally number of regular clients handled by a Travel Designer are in double digits (45-50 clients) or triple digits (averaging upto maximum 250) at the most, but never in thousands.
This allows them to undertake the consultation and trip planing process with no rush, giving them plenty of time to understand each clients requirement, their preferences, expectations and budget for the planned trips. The average planning period ranges from 3-6 months, and upto to 12-15 months for trips of a lifetime.
These Private Travel Designers (also referred to as Luxury Travel Designers, Travel Designers or Travel Advisors) are generally part of a reputed network or global consortium like a tribe of like minder mavericks. Examples include Traveller Made, Virtuoso, Signature Travel Network, Ensemble to name the most prominent.
Lastly, most of Travel Designers enjoy Preferred Partner Status with the Best Luxury Hotel Brands as listed below: Wow quite a list!
- Belmond Bellini Club
- Dorchester Collection Diamond Club
- Four Seasons Preferred Partner
- Hyatt Privé
- Jumeirah Passport to Luxury
- Langham Couture
- Mandarin Oriental Fan Club
- Marriott International Luminous
- Marriott International STARS
- Oetker Collection Pearl Partner
- Peninsula Hotels PenClub
- Preferred Hotels & Resorts Platinum Program
- Relais & Chateaux Preferred Partner
- Rocco Forte Knights
- Rosewood Elite
- Shangri-La Luxury Circle
- Small Luxury Hotels withIN Program
- Sofitel STEP
- Waldorf Astoria & Conrad Hotels Impresario Program
But what is the relevance of all these affiliations, trade shows, preferred partner recognitions?
This gives each Travel Designer access to insider connections and contacts that can make your trip memorable, with lifetime experiences. From value ads to include free meals, spa vouchers, room upgrades, F&B discount or credit coupons, early & late check-ins and check-outs, and most importantly personal attention and having access to Hotel’s top management and operations team to include the Hotel GM, Director of Rooms, Guest Experiences Manager, Executive Chef and the Lead Concierge to ensure their client needs are looked into with utmost proficiency.
In the end, and something which has become the most important criteria for successfully handling clients and gaining their confidence for all future travels is Crisis Management. Their ability to manage and crisis proof all trips by taking immediate emergency measures, like they did to get back their clients when suddenly destinations announced border closures in the wake of COVID pandemic in March 2020.
Even after evacuating all clients to the safety of their homes, these Travel Designers remained engaged (who says they were out of work) for months (working from home under lock-downs) to re-plan, postpone, cancel, get refunds for their clients from global suppliers like Hotels, Airlines, activity suppliers, tour agents, and Cruises. In a few cases the follow-up still continues, even after 6 months into the Pandemic.
But fortunately no defaults or closures have so far been reported and the reason being the established and trustworthy supplier network of these Travel Designers. They deal and entrust their clients (guests) to be handled only by the best in business, with strong local networks, connections and very sound financial backing, securities and insurances. This meant that no money was lost, and all guests got their rightful refunds or future travel credit notes.
Now the World once again begins to open up, and with a strong desire to travel by discerning travellers, the demand for Travel Designers is more than ever. Since these Mavericks are born with instincts which are most valuable in this Era of travel planning which not only involves crisis management, but their ability to look deeper and offer genuine advise on travel, it’s pros and cons based on current and emerging circumstances, keeping their guests interest as paramount as against an obvious rush to close files and gain client numbers.
Everyone in Travel and Tourism industry wants travel to restart and to bounce back soonest possible, but as Travel Designers, they have a larger responsibility to make sure that any travel, be it domestic, regional or international, is undertaken giving priority to health and safety measures. They do not want to be responsible for long term, and may be an irreversible damage to our industry.
They are committed to offer means and ways to safe destination heavens. They are brain storming, planning and offering everything from luxury cocoons, travel bubbles, to bubble charters to make it safe for their clients and help fulfill their desire to travel again in COVID-era. But in case this is not achieved to their satisfaction, an honest advise to client to wait and travel later, comes as an obvious responsible trait showcased by such Designers.
Such decisions and communication to travel later don’t come easy, since no business means no income for travel designers, but they are here for the long haul and dedicated to their professional approach to remain responsible and sustainable to continue to offer life changing travel and experiences to their clients in future.
They are confident that travel will be back, clients will travel again and they are willing to wait till such time it’s safe to do so. Their DNA is configured to be cautiously optimistic, without ever losing hope for better times ahead.
In few cases Travel Designers in such times of distress are taking the initiative of travelling themselves to locations and destinations which have opened up for tourists to make sure they can come back and share their stories citing confidence that it is safe to travel again to their clients.
As Travel Designers, and once they are convinced it is safe to travel again, they play a dual role of not just destination experts but also to some extend medical experts of soughts 🙂 They need and expected to answer below questions, while they plan trips for their clients in COVID-Era:
- COVID testing (when and what kind? RT-PCT or Rapid Antigens? 72 Hrs or 96 Hrs?)
- What happens if the test comes as positive before departure or on arrival? Crisis management, Back-up Plans?
- Destination testing and quarantine regulations? Hotel, Home or Institutional quarantine?
- Destination Medical Infrastructure and preparedness to handle tourist emergencies?
- Hotels, Airlines, Cruises deposit, payment and refund policies in case things go wrong last minute?
- Destination, Airlines, Cruises & Hotels COVID protocols. Their health & Safety standards and preparedness?
- Medical and Security Evacuation Insurance.
- Navigating various Travel, Medical and Evacuation Insurance policies in Market for travellers during the COVID Era.
- Continuous update on destination (Govt.) policies and evolving COVID situation globally. Global News channels Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, Wion have become bed-time favorites for such Designers, while their families enjoy the likes of Netflix, Prime Video, and Hotstar :).
Post COVID Travel:
This is when (after) we have a vaccine, and the travel comes back to normal motivation amongst discerning clients.
But will the Travel be the same again? I don’t think so.
The pattern, preferences, it’s form and shape, type and inspirations, all would have changed, after experiencing the grueling reality of the pandemic through 2020 and for sure some of part of 2021. (12-18 months from it’s start).
I expect travel to become more responsible and thoughtful and will not be taken for granted again. The holidays will be planned more meticulously, with a reason and purpose, not just for the sake of it. Needless to mention their will be a rush for safe heavens and to destinations (countries) which showed great responsibility in handling the crisis and taking care of it’s citizens and welcome back tourists.
So expect fewer trips, but longer and more purposeful. I hope as I predict and envisage over-tourism to be thing of the past (atleast for foreseeable future), but this can only happen with joint long-term efforts, and resolve by all concerned including Travel Designers, Tourism Providers, Destinations and of-course Clients.
Going forward we want Tourism to thrive, and nurture for growth for our future generations to cherish and experience.
We cannot remain confined within our borders, we need to continue to explore, discover the world and broaden our horizons. Travel is and will remain essential for the survival of humanity at large, but in an environment which is safe, and sustainable.
How do we find a Private Travel Designer. I can suggest Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd. which clicks all boxes and check-list of traits and expertise as listed above. They are based out of New Delhi, India. A boutique Travel Design company run by a small team of Travel Mavericks since 2014. They are Globally recognised and proud members of Traveller Made network of Luxury Travel Designers.
They are the go to agency if you planning a domestic, regional or international holiday in COVID or Post-COVID Era and seeking services for designing a trip of a lifetime to a Safe Heaven in this new normal. Infact they have partnered with Global Rescue’s Safe Travel Program, and offers free membership to it’s medical and security advisory and evacuation services for any client booking a full international private journeys with them.
– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer