Luxury side lock up Apr 2024
Luxury side lock up Apr 2024

As Flight Centre Travel Group’s Global Managing Director Luxury & Independent Brands, Danielle Galloway brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective to the industry. In this exclusive interview, Galloway shares her insights on the latest trends shaping the luxury travel sector, the invaluable lessons the industry can learn from other luxury brands, and the critical role of authenticity and storytelling in building a luxury travel brand. She also discusses how travel agents can balance exceptional service with profitability, ensuring that clients receive the highest level of expertise and personalised care.

Are travel agents thinking of luxury travel wrong? 

I believe that luxury travel is defined by the client.   

Luxury is different for everyone. For some, luxury means a First-Class flight and a 5-Star Hotel. For others, exceptional service while booking their travel is the luxury they desire. Some clients want the luxury of time, of digital disconnection or of high threadcount sheets. Others are looking for an exclusive adventure that no one has yet experienced. 

Of course, there are certain qualities that we use to define what luxury is, like client service, stylish surroundings, access to really great food and wine, cultural experiences and comfortable beds however the ability to travel the world is a luxury, and how we think about it is defined only by our imagination or our clients. 

Danielle Galloway_Karryon Luxury Advisory Board.
Danielle Galloway, Global Managing Director Luxury & Independent Brands
Flight Centre Travel Group.

Are there any surprising trends in the luxury travel space today and what can agents and the industry learn from them or do to prep for them?  

I’m not sure that I would say there are ‘surprising’ trends but there are certainly patterns we are seeing, like a high propensity for luxury cruising and clients doing back-to-back cruises and taking more time to travel and enjoy destinations.   

Of course, the ‘destinations du jour’ are changing all the time depending on recommendations from family and friends, social media influences, new flight routes or new hotels and itineraries to experience. 

‘Leaving to Learn’ is another wonderful trend or pattern we’ve seen with education coming from new experiences, different cultures and the desire to deeply connect with a place through its food, people and art. Parents and grandparents want to introduce younger generations to travel and coming back ‘richer’ for the experience is priceless. 

Spending patterns are changing with the trend towards longer trips and our desire for wellness of body and mind as these things are hard to quantify in terms of luxury ‘value’. 

Perhaps most of all, is the welcome return of clients seeing true value in luxury expertise and service from a trusted advisor. There’s no greater value than expert insight and recommendations and when you are investing in a holiday, you want to know that it will be every bit as fantastic as you dream it will be – because someone who knows you and knows your expectations and tastes has curated an itinerary for you to enjoy. 

What can the luxury travel industry learn from luxury brands? 

I think we can all learn from different industries and different ways of doing business. For travel, we should look at what other luxury brands are doing because that is the space we work in and our discerning clients shop for luxury cars, jewellery, fashion as well as travel.

The luxury travel industry can draw valuable lessons from the strategies and practices of luxury brands in various ways: luxury brands excel in crafting compelling narratives and identities around their products. Similarly, luxury travel companies can focus on creating unique, immersive experiences that tell a story and resonate with their clientele.

Luxury brands often offer personalised experiences and limited-edition products to enhance exclusivity and cater to individual preferences. Luxury travel companies can adopt similar strategies by offering bespoke travel itineraries, personalised services, and exclusive access to unique destinations or experiences. Luxury brands are renowned for their commitment to quality and craftsmanship. 

Similarly, luxury travel companies can differentiate themselves by offering exceptional service, attention to detail, and luxurious amenities to create memorable experiences for their customers. Finally,  luxury brands understand the importance of building emotional connections with their customers.

Luxury travel companies can focus on creating meaningful connections by understanding their clients’ desires, anticipating their needs, and providing personalised experiences that evoke positive emotions and lasting memories.

Travel agents Flight Centre Travel Group’s Global Managing Director Luxury & Independent Brands, Danielle Galloway

What role do storytelling and authenticity play in building a luxury travel brand? 

Authenticity and credibility are key to building a luxury brand. You also need to have a very clear vision and strategy that speaks to your values. Staying true to the vision by remaining on the right strategic path is essential as it is easy to be distracted by the myriad options and opportunities that we come across daily. While every one of these concepts might fit to your brand and your vision, if they don’t fit to your current strategic pathway then it’s important not to get distracted. They can always come later! 

And storytelling of course is such an important part of articulating your vision so it’s another key to success, enabling the people around you to understand your vision and where (and why) you are headed there. If you are not able to share your story, then perhaps it is not clear enough to you and needs time to be further defined and developed. 

There is no magic solution to building a luxury brand – it does take time to become established and trusted, however being authentic and sharing your vision with everyone who will listen are important elements of achieving the end goal. And always be different because there will be a worthy rival already out there, so your success also lies in your ability to find your own niche that your clients will want to take part in. 

How can agents strike a balance between providing exceptional service and maintaining profitability? 

I think these concepts go hand in hand. Providing exceptional service to clients that they find invaluable and therefore creates loyalty is core to profitability. Exceptional service doesn’t mean giving clients discounts or deals, it means giving them the service, advice and expertise they need to have that unparalleled experience.  

I believe a professional service fee is the right approach for travel advisors who do have valuable insights, years of first-hand experience and expertise that have been consistently developed to ensure they are the best of the best as a luxury advisor. Your service fee should be transparent, clearly explained to your clients and is earned by you for your time and expert advice, like any other professional service. 

When trust exists, clients will always be happy to pay for that exceptional service and up-to-the-minute advice, and for advisors who value their clients, there will always be added benefits and extra touches that are extended because there’s mutual respect. Profitability should be enhanced by great service, not diminished.  

Danielle Galloway is not only Global Managing Director of the Luxury and Independent divisions for FCTG, she is also Chairperson of the Link Travel Group, Luxury Advisory member of the Hilton & IHG Hotel Groups, and is a distinguished Board Member of AVMIN. Galloway is one of Karryon Luxury’s inaugural Advisory Board members.