Recommend February 2012 - (Page 14)

tour talk SWAIN TOURS Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, Australia. F rick shively celebrates 25th anniversary For 25 years, Swain Tours has packaged customized, luxury travel all around the globe, specializing in unique vacation experiences in some of the world’s most exotic locales and offering personalized service that’s won accolades from its travel agent clientele. And this year, Swain Tours is celebrating that anniversary with yearlong, value-added offerings after kicking off the event with a celebration party in Australia at a Tourism Australia event last November. “Throughout the year, we’re going to be offering different specials; they’ll be 25th anniversary specials where we’ve gone out to our different suppliers and come up with different things that we’ll be promoting,” explains Ian Swain, founder and owner of Swain Tours. “The culmination will be next November, when we’ll be doing a trip to Australia—which is where it all started,” he adds. “My wife and I will host and it’s going to be an exceptional trip to some of the best lodges in Australia. Every day there’s going to be a new surprise for the guests who come on this trip. It’s going to be limited to just 24 people.” Swain says that travel agents can sell into that special event, “… as well as a number of promotions that we’ll be offering to the travel agents so that they can share some of the value-added things we’ve put together. There’s going to be good value added for people booking with us at particular lodges and hotels in the destinations we sell.” Offering customized travel to Australia, New Zealand, all the South Pacific Islands, New Guinea, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, India, Bhutan, southern Africa, East Africa and Egypt, the one commonality of the Swain experience is service and focusing on the specific needs and wants of the customer, ensuring the ultimate vacation experience. For agents who’ve never booked with Swain Tours, “It’s hard to explain but once you’ve done it, you’re hooked,” Swain says. “How we try to explain it is to [tell the new agents] try and imagine a blank piece of paper and you’ve got your clients in front of you telling you where and what they want to do. You write all that down and we then put it into a sequence in the kind of order that makes sense from a travel perspective and one that will exceed their expectations. It’s really just customizing from the ground up and there’s really nothing too small or too big to make changes to it.” The result? “When they come home, they’re just so happy and their agents are happy,” Swain promises, “because they’ve got them as clients for life.” Most importantly, Swain says, over the years the company’s finetuned the customized packaging, adding a variety of nuances to con- sistently improve service and make the client’s journey a one-of-a-kind vacation experience. One of those nuances is something they tested at the end of last year in Australia—giving their highest end clients phones to ensure contact with the client and offer whatever service or changes in their itinerary they want or need. “What we’ve found in the past, when we’ve tried to call our clients and they’re out on tour or out doing something, we leave a message for them to ensure everything’s going fine but many of them don’t call us back. So we decided to give them phones with free dialing so they can actually call and we can contact them,” Swain explains. “When we tried it, it worked very well in the majority of cases, so we’re going to be implementing that over the next several months for our clients who are spending over a certain level of dollars for their trip. Alternatively, those who are not spending the higher amount of money, will be able to opt into the concierge service by payment of a fee and that will entitle them to all these extra services.” Over the years, Swain says he’s seen some significant changes in the luxury market. The first being the client base itself and the increase in luxury family travel. “When I first started, when the up-market travelers journeyed by themselves, they’d go with the luxury product,” but, he adds, “when they traveled with the family, they tended to take it down a notch. Now, they’re going the other way. They’re taking their families on these very experiential type journeys. In a lot of cases when you’re having an experiential journey—in our destinations in particular—you’re staying in the better lodges and resorts. So now, when they’re traveling, they’re doing everything better than they would themselves because they want to have their kids have that experience and they want to have that experience together.” The second change is in the travel agent industry itself. “I see it much more professional. You’ve got very strong individuals now who really understand the travel business, they may not necessarily know some of our destinations, but that’s why they’re relying on us,” he says. “When I started 25 years ago, there were a lot of travel agents who were doing it just to travel rather than serving the community. That’s changed now. They take it as a profession and they’re very proud that they’re travel agents, travel consultants or travel advisors.” n contact information Swain Tours: (800) 22-SWAIN; 14 february 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recommend February 2012

Editor's Notes/Agent Speak
Hotel Desk: The Lodge at Woodloch
Tour Talk: Swain Tours
Celebrity Silhouette
Savoring the Zulu Kingdom
The Falkland Islands-Nature's Last Stand
One Bal Harbour, Florida
Las Vegas Spa Retreats
Beaver Creek Lodge, Colorado
Bliss Springs Eternal at Esperanza
The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun
Time to "Czech" Out Moravia
Caribbean Uber-Luxe

Recommend February 2012