Has the health crisis been as hard on luxury tourism as with other activities in the sector?
It has done us a lot of damage. In other crises, this type of tourism was less impacted, but the pandemic has affected the same as the rest of the tourism models. In addition, the duration must be taken into account. For example, September 11 was also a very hard blow, but it did not last as long and we did not have the total paralysis that we have had now. However, we are perhaps a little more optimistic than other sectors because we believe that when there is a recovery it will be among the first to do so.
Will the role of the agent as an adviser be strengthened from the pandemic?
Yes, because in the end we have a relationship of trust with the client. We have a loyal clientele who trust us. Already at the beginning of the pandemic, in March of last year, travel agencies played a fundamental role. We had to cancel the reserved trips and help them had to return. We work 24 hours a day so that clients who were traveling could return. I think this has strengthened our position, in the same way as refunds. In our case, we managed to return practically 99.9% of the money to the people who had paid for their trips. Recently, when Morocco closed the borders in March, we had clients there and we automatically contacted them to facilitate their return. This is where you can see the added value we can offer.
Will there be changes in the way we travel when we get back to normal?
The client is going to become more demanding, especially in matters of safety and health control. The type of insurance you take out will be very important. In addition, you are going to look for smaller hotels, places more linked to nature, open spaces and perhaps not so much big cities, at least at first. There is a higher level type of customer who even prefers to pay a little more and go on a private plane for trips of between two and four hours.
Some destinations, such as Dubai or the Maldives, offer the vaccine to tourists as a measure to reactivate the sector. Have your clients been interested in this type of trip?
We’ve had a couple of inquiries, but haven’t had any really interested clients.
This crisis has also become an economic crisis and many people are seeing their purchasing power decline. In almost all recessions, the gap between those with the most and those with the least increases. Is it to be expected then a lower impact on luxury travel?
In crises, the lower middle class and the upper class are higher. The rich have gotten richer and this, together with the desire to travel, will have an influence. From what we are seeing in the United States, because of our membership in Virtuoso, people who have money are spending more because they have not been able to do it before due to the impossibility of traveling, and now they are going to travel a little better than they did before, that they already traveled well. There are going to be reservations of more money than we usually had, since by having more budget and prioritizing security, if they can be in a private villa and have less contact with people, they will.
What are the most popular destinations?
At the moment, Dubai and the Maldives, unlike the rest of destinations, is what we have sold the most at Easter. Also Seychelles, which has recently opened, is doing very well. The Mexican Caribbean has a number of luxury hotels that are very good and are also selling, just like Costa Rica or Egypt. Today they would be the destinations that most ask us and they all have luxury hotels.
How do you define a luxury trip?
In the end, it’s the little details that make a trip extraordinary. Luxury does not have to be the most expensive and the most ostentatious. In other words, our prototype of a luxury client would be a client that flies in Business class, which goes to 5-star hotels, but it doesn’t have to be the most magnificent hotel. They are looking for a very personalized service and treatment, a certain exclusivity, good gastronomy, a good spa, good services and that they can have different experiences than what they usually do.
In recent years, luxury hotels have multiplied in Spain. Barcelona and Madrid are a good example. What do these openings mean for this segment and for our country as a tourist destination?
Both Barcelona and Madrid have good luxury hotels. Madrid with the opening of the Four Seasons and the Mandarin, as well as the Rosewood Villa Magna at the end of the year, which belong to three of the most important international chains in the world, has taken an important leap as a luxury city. The same does not happen in Barcelona, due to the obstacles that the City Council has put in place in recent years so that hotels of major chains can establish themselves in the city. A decision that will bring negative consequences in the future, since tourism low cost Low level contributes little or nothing to the economic growth of the city.
Madrid is positioning itself as one of the top luxury tourism cities in the world. It will attract a client with greater purchasing power that will benefit many other activities, while Barcelona is lagging behind in this regard and will lose its position in luxury tourism
How have you dealt with the crises from your company?
The offices are already open, but we still have employees at ERTE. Until now we only opened in the morning and in the afternoon, only for arranged visits. As the vaccination process is going better, although I think it is still slow, we have already started to open all day to see if people cheer up and start thinking about the summer.
Have they received aid?
No. From the entire tourism sector we claim that direct aid has to come now. In other countries they have given them a long time ago. Here we are seeing how one company closes after another and there is no way to achieve them. We have had the ICOs, but they have to be returned. Not forgetting that we have had to pay all taxes, as in 2019, and including the Economic Activities Tax, when we have not had activity.