Executive View: Sanya Weston, CEO of Your Premier Travel Service: Travel Weekly

We hear that the economy is not at its best, but what I hear from my customers is that they are ready to travel and most are looking for an upgraded, luxury experience. They don’t think small. When it comes to cruises, they don’t start with a $399 cruise. People still invest in themselves and know that family time is the most important time. In other words, they value life and pay to get the most out of it.

I see a bucket trip, a historical trip. Most of the requests I get are for what I call exotic destinations. Africa is hot. My clients don’t hesitate to spend $1,800 on a flight to Ghana that used to cost $900. I just got back from Kenya and Ethiopia and had a lot of people interested in those destinations. Safaris are very popular. And Dubai has not lost its appeal – everyone loves Dubai. This is the playground of the world

Bali is still popular, but not by itself. We always package it with other destinations. Some people want a quick trip there for photography. Social media is still a driving force – people are looking at where they want to go in terms of their Instagram or Facebook capabilities. We hired a younger staff for social media posts and that really, really helped. I send my younger agents to various conferences to learn more about the future of technology to make sure we keep up with AI.

But really, social media is the key. Influencers are, in a sense, competition. Their followers may be curious, but then book themselves. We follow influencers and advocate for the professionalism we offer.

Last year was pretty amazing in terms of bookings and I expect 2024 to be similar. I don’t see a huge increase for Q1 and Q2, but we’re setting our bar higher because our suppliers are setting their bars higher and we’re using their expectations as indicators of where we need to be and what we need to do to increase sales. While I’m still not seeing increases from last year, I’m hoping that’s because things are just moving forward a bit. This is when people will be booking for next year and we will see it in bookings for February to May. But things seem to be moving back to the third quarter, June to August.

For me, the crisis in the Middle East has not affected the bookings in this region. I’ve had people say, “I have to go to Egypt.” We still have groups getting ready to go there.

This year I’m finally going to Croatia and exploring more of Italy. And, of course, I go to those wonderful Caribbean destinations. This year I will be participating in Carnival in Trinidad. And I’m excited about all the new flights to the Caribbean, super excited that St. Kitts, St. Lucia and more will be so easily accessible. I will go to St. Kitts. I’m still excited about the new growth in the industry, the new opportunities.

There was a time when people traveled and just took pictures of the villagers or people they thought represented that particular destination. And I always thought, “These people are not props. They are not just the part of the destination that you photograph and take home.” Travel is such an asset and everyone should have the opportunity to appreciate cultures anywhere in the world. So, I founded a non-profit organization, Young People Travel/Global Edge.

The students I take abroad not only visit different countries, but dive deep into what it’s like to live there, what it’s like to have a business there, to go to school there. We will go with them to Ghana in July and stay at a women’s university, on campus, and experience that. Not only does it give them a new window to look out of and new conversations to have, but experiences that will impact them for years to come. And if they end up going back and helping the people there, it will take their whole community work to another level.

That’s what the world is for. Americans are a privileged community and a traveling community. We can travel, give, love and want the best for the people we meet who may not have it as good as we do.

This interview was conducted by Arnie Weissman.

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