The owner of the Generation Travel Group in Farnborough, Hampshire, tells Benjamin Coren why he loves the Caribbean.
Q. How did you get into travel?
A. I spent 14 years in the cruise industry from 2001 in various roles. I held concession roles dealing with luxury goods on nine of the major cruise lines and I held management and operational roles on 29 vessels. Though I travelled worldwide, it was predominantly in the Caribbean – so I know the region well. I came back to the UK with the intent of starting my own agency and the best route to market at the time was through Not Just Travel. For two years I was a Not Just Travel franchise owner, then, as my contract renewal came up, we parted company on good terms.
Q. How has business been?
A. I’m now an Advantage member and I operate with my own Abta licence. The first year has been excellent and way beyond expectations. I have good relationships with brands such as AMResorts, Palladium, Rosewood and Excellence Hotels. The brands became a natural product to benefit my business and my clients. I have stayed in their properties; I have experienced them and these personal testimonials really help me grow my business as a brand. I’m constantly learning and I’m really big on self-development and invest heavily in my own development.
Q. Do you have a favourite Caribbean destination?
A. The Caribbean side of Mexico, which includes the Cancun region, is closest to my heart. I got married there two years ago and whenever I have a client asking where I would recommend and if they have no destination in mind, I steer towards Mexico – it’s a destination I’m particularly passionate about.
Q. Is first-hand experience important to your business?
A. Experiencing resorts and destinations is very important. It drives my wife Lisa nuts as holidays will never be the same again as I often block out days to see hotels I haven’t yet seen in different destinations. When you see something yourself, you have smelt it and tasted it, this enables you to give your client 100% faith. Part of my sales technique is getting people excited about destinations. It’s important to know and ‘own’ a market. People come to agents because of our expertise. They want to leverage our knowledge and experience.
Q. Why do you love the Caribbean?
A. The Caribbean is multi-faceted. You’ve got elite luxury properties on places like Parrot Quay, then mainstream and aspirational luxury such as AMResorts or Sandals and they are offering authentic five-star properties. Then you have places that offer three-star accommodation everyone likes and they are often family-owned and its really familiar, people go back year after year. Luxury means different things to different people.
Q. How many Caribbean destinations have you visited?
A. I’ve been to Barbados, Aruba, Antigua, Turks and Caicos, St Kitts, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. They all have their own individual charm. There are so many to visit, you could never get bored of exploring them.
Q. What are your top selling tips?
A. Learn a market and everything about it, both good and bad. Whether it’s Saint Lucia, the Dominican Republic or Cancun, know absolutely everything about it. If you have been on a trip before, know where you ate, what you had and why you liked it. Find out about the tours to go on and gauge the clients’ tastes and get them excited. You need to know things that are not going to necessarily benefit you financially. You should know the inside leg measurement of the destination. It can even go as far as knowing where Starbucks is, for example, as they may collect mugs from stores in places they have been to. If you know things like that, you can share that knowledge and they will love you for it. It’s about being an expert in your market. When you have a client who has had a good experience, shout about it and share their testimonials. Remember why a client will come to you over doing it themselves.
Making memories on holiday
Going back to my childhood, I holidayed in Barbados every February for as far back as I can remember. As a result, later in life when I went to work on cruise ships, I had developed a love for the Caribbean.
When we used to go to Barbados we always stayed in a hotel called the Monteray in St Lawrence Gap, which has sadly long gone now.
Across the road was a man called Richard with two gold teeth who sold authentic coral jewellery and he would recognise us every year.
Many years later, I was working on Grand Princess and it called into Bridgetown, and my mum, dad, and now wife Lisa were all on board. We went to see the hotel and Richard was still there and he recognised us straight away. I’ve even had a few people saying that they went to find Richard on their own holiday. It just shows how great memories can be the key to a nice holiday.
I want my clients to have little jolts of memories like that to remember.
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