BY, ARNELLE KENDALL
VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Ulla Hefel Bohler, CEO
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace?
In 2018, Insight Vacations added trendy new destinations to their Discovery Journeys, such as San Sebastian, Cinque Terre, Croatia, and the Italian Lake District, as well as a wide range of immersive experiences. For example, guests can meet Chef Lorenzo in Orvieto for a pasta-making demo, take a foodie walk in Paris, or meet a Swiss ranger on top of Mount Stanserhorn. We’ve also introduced farm-to-table meals on all of our Country Roads itineraries, and added Dine-at-Home experiences on many itineraries.
Our newest Luxury Gold destinations include Japan, New Zealand, Costa Rica, South Africa, Croatia and Montenegro, Ireland, and Russia (with the option to take the Trans-Siberian Express to Vladivostok). Our most notable new innovation is the addition of two new Chairman’s Collection experiences (more on this below).
What is your most exotic, unusual new offering?
The Chairman’s Collection, launched by Luxury Gold this year, are exclusive VIP experiences that give guests direct access to iconic local people and nobility, and are only available on select departures on certain itineraries. For example, guests can attend a cocktail reception with Princess Anita von Hohenberg, a direct descendent of Maria Theresa and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at her Austrian castle, or tour the gardens of Alnwick Castle with the Duchess of Northumberland. These were rolled out in 2018, and have proved so popular that we are adding two new experiences in 2019: on select “Majesty of the Canadian Rockies” and “Trans-Canadian Grandeur” journeys, guests will meet Rob Boyd, skiing legend and gold medal-winning Canadian Olympian; and on select “Southern Grace” and “Sumptuous Soul of America” journeys, guests will meet Charlie McCoy, a Country Music Hall of Fame musician.
Are you modifying your offerings to accommodate the desire many consumers have to “live like a local” and to have “authentic” experiences?
We have always offered immersive experiences that authentically connect guests with a destination, and are adding more every year. This is one of the main selling points of our brands. By offering behind-the-scenes access to museums, hands-on culinary experiences, and private meetings with notable local characters, such as we do with Luxury Gold’s Chairman’s Collection, we are able to give guests experiences that can’t be had by the average traveler and can’t be easily arranged by those traveling independently.
Have you seen the age of your customers change in the past year or so?
Our core demographic continues to be the Baby Boomer, however, we also see young professionals, families and even honeymooning couples travel with us.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2018/19?
Agents are crucial partners and we support them in every way we can. We are in constant communication with them and do ongoing training, webinars, launch events, and Agent Academy. We also recently hired a number of new district sales managers. In terms of digital marketing, we utilize e-mail, social media, and our website for maximum effect to reach agents. Our catalogs, which are available both online and in print format, are also crucial tools, and they work better than ever for communicating our message.
What is your key strategy these days and why?
Our strategy is twofold: To put our guests at the heart of everything that we do — by actively engaging with our customers and listening to their feedback. If it isn’t right for the guests, it won’t be right for the business. We also differentiate ourselves from the competition by offering high levels of personalization and cultural immersion, and hyper-local culinary experiences. We know travelers might only have a couple of weeks’ vacation a year, and by choosing our trips they can trust that they will get the maximum value they deserve: the best experiences, the right hotels, and world-class service from our Travel Directors and Traveling Concierges.
We also recognize that travelers want to take trips that have minimal environmental impact and positively benefit local communities and wildlife in the destinations they visit. Thanks to our efforts with our TreadRight Foundation and its +50 initiatives, we can assure guests that they are traveling sustainably when they travel with us.