Julia Kostina is a professional luxury travel consultant at Renshaw Travel, one of the best luxury travel agencies in Canada. Julia has more than 17 years of experience in this business, and well-established partnerships from all over the world. Julia was born in Russia, what makes her experience especially valuable for the clients from that country. For many years Julia has been living and working in the city of Vancouver, Canada.
TOHOLOGY: You have lived both in Russia and in Canada. Besides, you have clients from both of these countries. Could you tell what the difference between them (clients) is?
Julia Kostina: I would rather do comparison of North American and European clients in major. NA clients are easier going, more open to take an advice from a professional, can even change destination to a different one if advised. They normally do not stay in the same place longer than 2-3 nights, they prefer to browse the country rather than have one place as a base for exploring surroundings. They don't care much about the beaches (at least when they travel in Europe). Please note I'm speaking about luxury travellers, not about consumers of all-inclusive Mexican vacations.
Europeans (and especially Russians) are not used for travel advisor institute. They normally deal with travel agencies, not travel advisors. Yet, when they come across of later, after first suspicious look into the things, they are quite happy to accept a different concept. Russians in particular are very suspicious at the beginning, but then after first try they normally become very loyal clients. Good thing about them – they stay long in each property, from two weeks to one month, and they easily pay for expensive room types as long as they are sure they are getting a good deal.
TOHOLOGY: The volume of independent travels is growing year by year. Could this, from your point of view, lead to decrease in demand for tourist companies’ services?
Julia Kostina: Independent travellers are exactly travellers, which we serve, so there is no antagonism. :-) Last year luxury travel advisors were busier than ever. I assume that majority of independently travelling high-end clients got overloaded with Internet information, lost in it, and now they are looking for someone to guide them through this information ocean to the perfect vacation. Dealing with a travel professional, they actually save instead of overpaying, also it saves precious time which can be used for something else, and definitely improve the quality of vacation overall. Why should one spend hours browsing the Internet while there is a professional who would give right suggestions without even spending time on search?
TOHOLOGY: What is “luxury travel” in your opinion?
Julia Kostina: Quality, based on personal connections and personal touch, passion for the best, little things, which make big difference, experience delivered to the client through high-end professionals, authenticity, and personal approach to each customer with his/her preferences.
TOHOLOGY: Do you rely on social media a lot? If yes, does it help your business?
Julia Kostina: What do you mean as social media? Facebook and Twitter type of things? Not so far. Our clientele is 40 and up. When twitting 20 y.o. will get to this age, world will probably change. But not yet.
TOHOLOGY: Could you say a few words about one of your favourite hotels, which Renshaw Travel has partnership with?
Julia Kostina: Italian Orient-Express hotels. Villa San Michele in Fiesole (just out of Florence) is one of the best examples of perfect service. Perfect service for me is not based on how many employees serve each guest or on how big rooms are. It is based on ability of these employees to find proper approach to each and every guest and find the way to make every and each guest happy, excited, being sad to leave, returning back, or at least keeping precious memories for a while.
TOHOLOGY: What is the most difficult thing in your work?
Julia Kostina: Time difference and 24/7 demand. Having clients and partners all over the world, I often forget about proper weekends, vacations, or even after-dinner hours. But that is a part of the game: you love it or you leave it.
What are the candidate requirements at luxury hotels at the Canadian chain Four Seasons? What is more important, specialised education or experience?
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