Luxury travel advisors who have survived the crisis are more determined than ever, says Mark Duguid, managing director of Carrier, who says his company’s own focus on high service levels has helped get it through the past year.
There have been a lot of tears shed in the past year from grief, desperation and frustration, but probably less so, tears of joy.
So as a luxury tour operator, Mark Duguid, managing director of Carrier, says it was rewarding to be able to give some good news to agents, adding he was “overwhelmed” by the reaction of some agents when contacted to be told they’d earned themselves a place in The Carrier 30 earlier this year.
“The Carrier 30 was all about giving a big virtual hug to agents and recognising those who have offered exceptional service and gone above and beyond, while also giving them the tools to communicate something inspiring and uplifting with their customers,” says Duguid. “We definitely had tears from some agents.”
The new list goes some way to filling the void of the operator’s usual annual awards, often sales-based in nature, and therefore impossible to put on after the 12 months agents have suffered. Carrier would also usually be in full swing with its Preferred Partners programme, packed with events, fam trips and privileges for its best agents, but with the Covid-19 crisis ongoing, this hasn’t been possible either.
Duguid says Carrier’s focus instead has been to offer stronger commercial terms with guaranteed over-rides for agents, and to up the ante on marketing for them, as well as offering Travel Made To Order, whereby bespoke conditions are created for every booking. During the crisis, Carrier has also attracted many new agents, perhaps for some of these reasons.
“The majority of business is coming from established agencies we know, but also some who would not ordinarily have booked with us either in general or for a specific product, but they were on our radar and perhaps placing their bookings with another operator – we are also now working with more homeworkers than ever before,” he says.
“We put this down to the sort of positive feedback we’ve had throughout the pandemic around the high service levels, as well as an increase in this kind of conscious shopper mentality,” he adds. “People are much more discerning now about where they’re going to place their business; I’ve spoken to multiple agents who are adamant they’ll continue to refine their supplier list.”
Well known in the industry for a number of trade roles, Lee Marshall has also been working alongside the operator since the start of this year, establishing himself with a network of agent contacts, so more agents could yet make the transition to Carrier. Duguid adds he’s been heartened to see so many luxury agents manage to ride out the crisis anyway.
“I’ve been struck by their extraordinary resilience and really not heard of many luxury agents have to exit travel for good, which is amazing,” he says. “It feels like they’re determined to not just continue now, but really succeed. If anything, I believe even more now in the sustainable future for good luxury travel advisors, and I really hope they remember their value.”