Fresh from being awarded for Top Australia/New Zealand Production at Virtuoso Travel Week , David Goldman, Joint Managing Director of the Goldman Travel Corporation, chats with LATTE about the value of travel advisors, trends and Viennese coffee.
- How did you become one of Virtuoso’s top booking agents in Australia and New Zealand?
Over the past couple of years, we have been aligning with like-minded agencies, acquiring Australia’s top agencies, which we couldn’t have done without people such as Cher [Roscoe] from Travelcall and Fay Cohen from Travel Phase, now under the Goldman Group umbrella. We have also brought SmartFlyer to Australia, a New York-based company that is very social media-driven, and are looking to the next generation of travellers. Throughout all that, we’ve remained a family company since 1983, with my father Tom still serving as Executive Chairman. Our aim was to become the best in the business, and we have achieved that.
- How have you seen the travel industry change?
I’ve been in the travel industry for 20 years and about 8 years ago, people were talking about the death of travel agents. Now we’re the heroes. We sift through and curate the plethora of information that exists to offer our clients experiences that you can’t get online for the best price.
- In a world of online DIY, why do clients seek you out? What specialisations mark you out?
We can also offer that little bit of ‘sugar on top’; as we say, you can’t VIP yourself but we can VIP our customers. Goldman Group has the contacts needed, thanks in large part to Virtuoso; we’ve been a member of that network for 12 years now. Being able to tap into that wealth of expertise is the best thing we have ever done and the ability to meet with its network of top operators is invaluable to your business. It’s a cliché, but we are dream makers. We turn clients’ hard-earned cash into the best travel experience, and we’re leaders in that arena. In reality, we are not competing with online at all.
- What travel trends are you noticing for 2015/16?
Europe is always in demand. We’re seeing Italy particularly popular for multi-generational trips. Sri Lanka is also high on people’s lists and we’re also looking to see which destinations will be popular next with the help of social-media savvy ‘trendsetter’ clients. In terms of types of travel, experiential travel is the most in-demand, and volunteering is increasingly requested. We arrange for clients to do things like teach English in the hills of Thailand, but come home each night to a luxury hotel. Cruises are also big right now.
- What hotel openings or (re-openings) are you most looking forward to for the coming year?
The Lanesborough in London, part of the Oetker Collection, has unveiled its latest refurbishment, and so has The Goring; these are the best hotels in the world as far as I’m concerned. I’m also looking forward to staying at the refurbished Plaza Athénée Paris after ILTM this year. The new Baccarat Hotel in New York is very exciting, as is the Park Hyatt New York, which opened in October 2014; a gorgeous and cool property. I’m also keen to see the new Trump property in Bali.
- What are the greatest lengths you’ve gone to for a client?
Everything. We’ve organised private transfers (helicopter, private jet, boats), private tours of the Sistine Chapel and Yankee Stadium, we’ve chartered cruises in the Mediterranean. We’ve recently organised a proposal on Hayman Island, with a helicopter trip out to Whitehaven Beach.
- If you could send a client anywhere, where would it be?
Italy. As I’ve said, it’s always popular, it never disappoints and it’s great for the whole family. For those who love the sun, you can’t go wrong with the Maldives, Mauritius, Tahiti. London and France are classics. Central Europe is also great – Croatia, Hungary – as is Spain and Sri Lanka.
- What are your top tips for organising a client’s honeymoon?
Be organised. We can help in any number of ways, be that making sure that the climate is spot-on when the client is planning to go (climate is surprisingly important), making restaurant reservations and organising a pre-arrival contact. The destination and style has to suit the couple; are they after fly and flop, looking to explore or wanting to hit the shops? Figuring out what a couple really wants, however, is often a matter of gut feeling, based on what they’ve told us. It must always be a beautiful experience and value for money.
- What’s the quirkiest request you’ve had to accommodate?
No request is too quirky. That’s why we’re there. Our job is not finished until the client comes home, so we offer hands-on management every step of the way to make sure everything goes smoothly. For us, we love what we do.
- Best coffee you’ve ever had?
Hotel Imperial in Vienna. It’s a beautiful Luxury Collection property and the Austrian coffee and cake culture, the historical, indigenous experience of people watching made it a whole experience, rather than just a cup of coffee.