The following post was written by junior and Tisch Center social media student worker, Haley Park.
On Tuesday, April 16, the NYUSPS Hospitality and Tourism Society (HTS) hosted a panel discussion on luxury travel. This panel, open to all Tisch
Center students and faculty, featured 4 panelists discussing their careers and their experiences working in the luxury hospitality and tourism sector.
The four panelists included David Cohen, CEO & General Manager at Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paul Tumpowsky, CEO at Skylark, Maria Tuttocuore, Senior Executive of Sales and Marketing (Leisure) at Visit Monaco, and Emily Desjardins, Land Services Manager at Lindblad Expeditions.
-Below are the highlights from the Q&A Session-
Q) How do you define luxury travel today?
A) Maria kicked off the conversation by saying that luxury includes three elements: excellent service, something that goes beyond what is widely available, and craftsmanship. Next, Paul agreed with Maria’s comment and said that luxury is really about personalization, more than anything else. Listening to your clients’ needs and wishes is truly what is important. Emily said that that luxury is about constantly trying to keep things fresh and discover new ideas and places. For example, the company she works at recently partnered with National Geographic and was able to bring in an educational component to the activities team which appealed to the guests as it was something that was unfamiliar to them. And finally, David said that after working 30+ yea
rs in the industry, it’s about creating a memorable experience for them. His motto is not to strive for perfection but rather to create something special for them. He closed by saying that your goal is to leave your guests with a positive memory, even if things go wrong, which they inevitably will.
Q) How do you market to those who have already been exposed to the best of the best?
A) Maria said that her company uses influences from around the world to portray Monaco as a sustainable destination. Another way they create innovative ideas is by seeking new and unique brands to partner with. Also, because Monaco is quite a small country, they u
se that to their advantage for those who are unfamiliar with the destination. Emily geared her answer more towards the marketing aspect. Lindblad Expeditions’ clientele skews older, with an average age of 70 years old, meaning that most of their marketing has been through paper. However, recently they have shifted towards digital marketing which has widened the target audience. Paul said that Skylark’s marketing has focused their efforts towards going where the wealthy are, partnering with a few of the top charities and working with people who excel in inspiring people to travel. Finally, David said that he believes in PR, and there are certain hotels he has worked at where he’s invested more in PR than marketing and sales which have been very successful.
Q) What is a strategy to be successful on your team?
A) At Skylark, Paul said there are three essential teams: the engineers, marketing team, and agency team. Across all three, he said that it’s important to be creative, take initiative as it is a young and growing company, be a good communicator and have a passion for working in luxury travel. Giving more general advice, Maria said that a positive attitude is the most important skill to have. Regardless of what you do, saying “no” is not an option. In addition, she added that in this industry, relationships are key. Also giving more general advice, Emily said that it’s super important to ask questions and be open-minded to not only meeting new people but new opportunities that come your way. Finally, David simply yet effectively put, “learn your craft, pay your dues.” David has worked in every area within hospitality from a bellman to a controller to a housekeeper, which is why he is respected today. He closed with the remark, “getting your hands dirty is a good thing.”
Q) What countries do your companies market to? (asked by a graduate student)
A) Paul started out by answering that Skylark caters to an English-speaking profile, however we’re growing rapidly as a nationwide travel company. Currently, the company is West-coast heavy. Also predominantly catering to English-speaking clients, Emily said that Lindblad Expeditions caters to America and then Australia and then the UK. She interestingly pointed out a cultural difference between American and Australian travelers and said that Americans place personalization above any of their other clients. Maria then said that Visit Monaco’s main markets are France, Italy, the UK, the US and then Russia. Finally, David closed by saying that Hotel Plaza Athenee’s top two markets are America and the UK.