The travel advisor community is, and will remain, the backbone of the success of Tauck’s presence in the Australian market, says Steve Spivak, Vice President Global Sales for the US-headquartered luxury travel company.
In Australia this week – alongside David Clark, Tauck’s Managing Director for Australia – to meet face-to-face with travel agents and industry partners in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, Spivak said Australia wouldn’t be Tauck’s second largest global market if not for frontline sellers.
Speaking exclusively one-on-one with LATTE, Spivak, a 10-year veteran with Tauck who heralds from Winton, Connecticut, said “without travel advisors, we wouldn’t have a presence in this market”.
“Travel advisors are our business in the Australian market. Our business here – and we have had a presence here for over 40 years now – and our success in this market, and as we rebuild is because of the great support of travel advisors,” Spivak said.
“Travel advisors know the Tauck story because of the great relationships we’ve forged through trade organisations and shared partnerships because the best travel advisors are avid travellers and seek the best experiences, and that’s how many came to know the brand.”
The former hotel executive said there was “almost no business” from Australia that comes direct to the company.
Tauck’s number one global market is, unsurprisingly, its home audience of the USA. After Australia is Canada, then the UK/Ireland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and New Zealand. Interestingly, New Zealand is Tauck’s only global market where it still has a GSA (general sales agreement) arrangement, with business quadrupling there in recent times.
Spivak said the luxury travel company’s European river cruise product and land tours, and its small ship cruising (charter operations) were most favoured by Australian travellers. There was also a “healthy” amount of sales for Tauck’s North American touring (USA and Canada), National Parks itineraries and Japan.
After a COVID-pandemic pause, Tauck commenced a phased relaunch of operation in early 2021 initially with a Yellowstone itinerary, then expanding to some popular domestic itineraries, then Europe in July, river cruising in August and by the end of last year Tauck was re-establishing its presence in around 80 countries. The company’s Australian program restarts in September 2022, while a restart of its Japan program is imminent.
And demand for Tauck’s high-end programs is through the roof for the remainder of 2022, robust for 2023 and building for 2024.
“We have just had an amazing resurgence. We have three years’ worth of travellers all funnelling into this year and it’s just amazing,” Spivak remarked. Quizzed by LATTE if the bulk of business was from guests utilising credits from previously cancelled trips (due to COVID), he said it was a combination of new and rebookings.
“We still have thousands of people who have credits to use and we have many people who are using their credits, and booking another trip. Plus we have all the people who are just on the sidelines waiting to travel, who are now wanting to travel again.”
“The places that they couldn’t go and the things they couldn’t experience, they have not removed those from their bucket list. They’re still there. And if they couldn’t go last year and they couldn’t go this year, they’re planning to go as soon as they possibly can,” Spivak remarked.
In a trend that’s been experienced by other travel companies, Tauck is also witnessing guests booking significantly longer trips, upgrading their experience and spending more.
“Guests who maybe a couple of years ago would have said I’m more of a value-minded, budget-minded traveller, who were not going to take that big safari to Africa or a two-week river cruise are now saying ‘I’m going to spend and I still want to make sure I’m getting great value, and I know that’s what I get from Tauck. But there is no guarantee of tomorrow. So I’m gonna take that trip and the time to go is now’.”
“They’re going for longer, they’re doubling up trips, they’re planning back-to-backs, they’re going for the upgrades, they’re flying Business Class and price sensitivity is a non-factor because of the value.”
He said that because of Tauck’s value proposition – “that everything’s taken care of in one price paid upfront” – guests know that the experience is going to be exceptional.
“They’ve waited long enough and they want the best. So it’s a great time for us and it’s a great time for travel,” Spivak said.
David Clark, Managing Director for Australia – appointed to the role in early 2020 – said this week’s trade partner events were the start of a major launch for the Tauck brand in this market. Initially planned for April 2020, the “Australian Blitz” was set to include 15 colleagues from the US on a mission to showcase the brand and its history and values to the trade and consumers. The pandemic saw that original plan “derailed”.
Now, Tauck is back and “re-energised” for the future in Australia. Helen Eves returned to the company earlier this year as National Account Manager, and the business is in “recruitment mode” for another national account manager to work with key travel agent partners.
“The Australian business is extremely important to our overall business and Australian travellers travel everywhere,” Clark explained.
“When we look at the splits and when we talk about all our different product ranges, being river cruising in Europe, our small ship cruising program, or of course our land touring, Australians tend to split their time amongst each of these products with us. We have great success with Australians traveling to North America, great success in Europe, great success on the rivers, and then what we call our exotics, which is everything else – being Africa, Iceland, Asia, and even our Australian/New Zealand product here as well.
“We know the importance of this market and now it’s our role to re-energise that market and to get that message out again,” Clark concluded.
Lead image: Tauck’s Steve Spivak (left), Vice President Global Sales and Partner Relations with David Clark, Managing Director, Australia.