Luxury tour operator dedicated to travel advisors, ID Travel Group, has recorded an outstanding start to 2024, tripling its number of sales from partners in Australia and NZ during January compared to 12 months earlier. Announcing the result at the Sydney leg of ID Travel Group’s recent AU/NZ roadshow, Laurie Palumbo, Partner & Chief Operating Officer, said she was “absolutely thrilled” with the performance by local sellers.
For the uninitiated, ID Travel Group has been in business for 40 years. Headquartered just outside New York City, ID’s core business is that of the five-star Island Destinations portfolio of 400-odd hotels and resorts in the Caribbean, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Maldives and Indian Ocean, French Polynesia, Sri Lanka, USA, Southern Europe, Middle East and Fiji. Complementing Island Destinations is the ID Villa Portfolio of some 140 properties mostly in the Caribbean, Mexico, Maldives, Southeast Asia, Central America and French Polynesia. IDx is a separate stable of deluxe, all-inclusive properties almost entirely in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Making her annual pilgrimage to our shores, the Connecticut-based luxury travel veteran (who lives out of a suitcase most weeks of the year) believes ID Travel Group still has extensive growth opportunities to explore from the Australian market.
“Even though we’ve been here for a while, I think we’ve only just touched the surface,” Palumbo told LATTE at Crowne Plaza Sydney Coogee Beach.
“It takes some time to be established. Africa is doing amazing from this market,” she said, referencing the joint venture with Luke Brown’s Victoria Falls-based travel company, Vayeni. Launched two years ago under the ID Vayeni Africa brand, and formally introduced to the Australian market at last year’s showcase, the program has been strongly supported by local travel advisors.
ID Vayeni Africa introduced 14 new destinations to ID Travel Group – South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, plus “African Island Escapes” to Madagascar, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zanzibar.
Palumbo continued, saying: “We’re starting to see the bookings come in for Sri Lanka. I believe there’s a huge opportunity for Sri Lanka from Australia and it’s such a great price point… and under an hour to the Maldives, so it makes a fabulous combination of culture and beach.”
Pressed as to what she believes has fueled the growth of the AU/NZ market, Palumbo didn’t hesitate in pinpointing the secret sauce.
“I think it’s Belinda [Layt],” she said. “Having someone based here has made the difference.”
Layt, a former frontline travel advisor with Savenio, joined ID Travel Group 14 months ago. She took over from ID’s former Asia Pacific representative of 4.5 years, Katie Hawkins, who was Singapore-based.
“Being a luxury advisor Belinda knows the product, she knows how to discuss all aspects with advisors, [and] she has some unbelievable relationships directly with the hoteliers and with the advisors.”
Quizzed if extra resources or feet on the ground in the Australian market may be necessary for expansion, Palumbo said “not yet, but down the road I think adding another salesperson for Australia would be amazing.”
“I’m continually looking at expanding. Everything we do is always about the travel advisor. I started in this industry as an advisor, so everything we do is aimed at making it easier for them,” she explained.
“Last year we expanded in Greece, a little bit in Italy, Sri Lanka and Africa with Luke.”
Last week’s roadshow encompassed events in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Auckland, to showcase the 2024 Travellers Collection brochure. (Keeping with a theme of being close to the water to suit the brand, they were hosted at Bisou Bisou Hotel X in Brisbane, Elwood Bathers in Melbourne and Park Hyatt Auckland.) New products have been included in Africa and Europe, Santorini, Desarau Coast (Malaysia), the Bahamas and the very recently opened Grand Velas Los Cabos adults-only addition.
Seventeen partners from properties and destinations around the world were involved in the roadshow. They included Atlantis The Palm, Dubai and Atlantis The Royal, Dubai; Anantara; One&Only; Los Cabos Tourism; Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos; Paradisus, Los Cabos; ANI Private Resorts; Sanctuary Retreats; Conrad Maldives Rangali Island; Patina Maldives Fari Islands; Heritance Aarah; Soneva; JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING, W Maldives; Velaa Private Island, Maldives; Matetsi Victoria Falls; Uga; Resplendent Ceylon; Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji and SriLankan Airlines.
Belinda Layt, Associate Director, Asia Pacific said many travel advisors are still unaware that ID Travel Group is now offering a robust African program.
“We can create individual and complete safari journeys that directly connect people and nature. We’ve had some great bookings to date. If travel advisors have clients that are particularly interested in conservation, we can put them in touch with conservationists across all the destinations.”
Layt emphasised that ID Vayeni Africa isn’t a destination management company. “They are part of the team offering a high-touch service and fantastic prices.”
She added that demand for Rwanda and Uganda was “incredible”, driven by bucket list gorilla encounters, along with ultra-luxury stays at One&Only and Singita properties in Rwanda.
Closer to home, ID Travel Group is generating a lot of business in Fiji at the high end, with bookings for Kokomo Private Island and VOMO Fiji.
For roadshow participants, there were plenty of giveaways on the night too – including a more than $10,000 package with JOALI and JOALI BEING in the Maldives.
The Sydney event was capped with the announcement of ID Travel Group’s ‘Rockstar Award’, presented to the highest-producing agent in the country. That accolade was taken out by Camilla Speer of Carte Blanche Travel, who generated nearly US$500,000 in sales with ID.
Meanwhile, Palumbo said customers are starting to book further out, with demand getting stronger already for 2025, despite hotel average daily room rates (ADRs) being “way up”.
“ADRs are so high, which is great, but we also want to have the transactions up, and that’s growing by double digits. We started off the year very, very strong.”
“We haven’t seen forward demand to this extent in years. Due to limited availability in the top tiers and in the top suites, top categories… people are booking earlier.”
“We are seeing the booking window push out beyond 12 months, which is a really good sign,” she concluded.
Lead image: Seated, from left – Laurie Palumbo, Partner/COO, ID Travel Group; Chloe Faust, Travelcall; Liz Rodgers, Patina Maldives, Fari Islands; Tamera Buongiorno, MTA; Susie Taouk, The Ultimate Traveller and Lynne Ireland, Inspired Luxury. Standing: Simon James, Travelcall; Belinda Layt, Associate Director, Asia Pacific, ID Travel Group and Andrew Parchimowicz, Planet Dwellers.