How long have you been in the business? Since 1992, when I started working for an Australian inbound operator. I opened EntrÃ©e in Canada in 1994.
What does EntrÃ©e Canada do? We specialize in high-end customized tours in Canada and Alaska, and also offer expedition yachts as well as space travel through Virgin and Galactic – we wholesale zero gravity flights which cost US$4,950 for 14 minutes.
Have you been on one? Yes – there’s nothing like weightlessness!
What is your clientele like? 50% our clients are American, 25% are British, some are Russian, some Arabic. They include famous stars, royalty, G8 politicians and wealthy businessmen. Needless to say we offer the ultimate discretion for our guests. It might be a rock band wanting a fishing lodge for a break from touring, or a movie star filming in Canada looking for a mini-holiday with her family. Interestingly, the more famous, the wealthier and the older the client, the lower maintenance they are. Though we’ve had some notoriously high-maintenance clientele.
Can we mention names? Not really. It goes against our rules.
What would a typical EntrÃ©e Canada itinerary comprise? A helicopter transfer to a glacier where lunch is provided by a chef and server. Or a seaplane day trip to the Gulf Islands including a private tour of Butchart Gardens with a botanist, lunch at Hastings House on Saltspring Island, a visit to Clayoquot Reserve and some whale watching. That would cost about $15,000.
What was your most expensive itinerary? For eight years we’ve arranged an annual tour for a group of 18. One year was a ski trip to Whistler featuring a costume party with help from Hollywood costumers. It usually costs $250,000 per year but once there was a wedding as well, so that was $330,000. Including Tim Horton’s every day for the patriarch!
How do you advertise? We wholesale as well as retail, and deal with the best luxury travel agents in the world. Plus I’m listed as one of only two Canadian travel agents in this year’s CondÃ© Nast Gold List, so that helps.
What are the trends you see in luxury travel? Since the economic downturn a lot of wealthy people don’t want to seem too ‘flashy’ in their travel. Even billionaires don’t like to waste money! Also, a trend to experiential travel. More than ever I am uncovering unique and private experiences in nature. There’s a new bear viewing operation in the Yukon – maximum four participants. Isolation is very big with many of these people.
Where do you find your staff? We have 18 staff and they are the most talented and professional. You keep your staff by taking care of them. We’re an employer of choice so that attracts good people – and we have hardly any turnover.
What drives you crazy? People who can’t make up their minds and ask for revision after revision after revision. On your 17th revision you’re spinning wheels. But honestly I love what I do.
Do you have a magic sentence to close the sale? We’re very soft sellers, so the short answer is no. But we like to say ‘Let me know what else we can do to serve you and your family.’
What would you say to an agent who complains that the consumer today is all about price-price-price? I would encourage them to raise the bar and to tell their clients not to sweat the small stuff. Too many agents let the tail wag the dog. We deal with some of the top travel agents in the world and the clients trust everything they do. If these clients complained about $20 they’d drop them like a hot potato. The minute that an agent worries about losing client because they’ve found something $20 cheaper over the internet they are in a very unhealthy place – and that client’s not worth keeping.