Londregan urges shift in travel advisor mindset

Virtuoso executive says avoid the trap of having a COVID-19 finish-line in mind

Virtuoso’s freshly minted SVP of Global Operations, Michael Londregan, is urging the industry to be cautious of the pitfalls of predicting a timeline as to when business will resume to pre-COVID-19 days.

Speaking exclusively with LATTE, Londregan admits to having fallen into the same “trap” himself.

“One of the things that is really becoming clear (and it’s a trap I fell into myself in 2020, which is why it’s very clear to me) is actually trying to write a deadline of when this tunnel will be over and we’ll be out of it. 

“And all the optimists among us have tried to say ‘well, it’ll be done by Easter’, and then Donald Trump forecasted it’d be finished by a certain date, and we’ve all tried to write a little date that it’ll be over.”

Michael Londregan, Senior Vice President, Global Operations, Virtuoso

“I just think that we’ve probably got to change our mindset in 2021 from trying to draw a finish-line and a normality-line, and try and say to ourselves, this is what it is, and what we’re going to try and do is use this time to refashion our businesses to take advantage of the recovery, whenever it comes.”

Londregan, who has been with Virtuoso for over seven years, says this approach is different from waiting for the recovery to begin, and places greater impetus on being thoroughly prepared for the bounce-back.

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He said the travel advisor mindset should be set on, “have I got my business model right for the future? Am I invested in all of the right mechanics around my database, my segmentation, understanding my customers, understanding my marketing cost, understanding my operational costs. Have I got all the right training for the sort of business I want to be? Have I got my professional development strategy right?”

“I think we’ve got to pivot away from trying to draw a recovery-line and start to think about using this as a transformative time,” Londregan told LATTE.

Long-form marketing strategy

Meanwhile, the Sydney-based Virtuoso executive revealed the luxury travel network will look to put a localised focus on its consumer-facing in-house Virtuoso Life magazine.

“We’re quite keen to make sure that we are able to run really relevant marketing. Traditionally we’ve taken a lot of the marketing from the global communications warehouse. For instance in the magazine there are a bunch of articles written for a global audience that are relevant when we can travel anywhere in the world.”

“In 2021 there’s a lot of content that isn’t relevant because we can’t go there.”

Londregan said Virtuoso’s recently recruited Marketing Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Zoe Dean, would be tasked with ensuring there is relevant localised content.

“A lot of our marketing is long-from marketing. It’s early in the purchase cycle marketing. It’s marketing where we’ve got to tell the story.”

“We can’t just say this was $10, and now it’s five. There’s enough people in that market that can run the red-light specials and sell distressed inventory. We’ve got to try and get people to invest in luxury experiences.That’s long-form marketing and it’s important you can tell that story relevantly. The global warehouse marketing is less relevant in this region.”

Londregan forecasts the local marketing approach will be necessary for at least the next 24 months.

“If you’re going to talk to customers in a relevant way you’re going to have to tailor the message for their individual circumstances.”

“I suspect outbound travel from Australia won’t look like outbound travel from London and outbound travel from Shanghai for the next two years.”

“The world will not be your oyster. Your oyster will be more tightly defined!” He quipped.

Separately in China, Virtuoso has this month broadened its scope to connect with its clients and network members via WeChat. 

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