Relais & Chateaux explores tour operating

RELAIS & CHATEAUX is going into tour operating and will start conceiving and selling tours this year.

The hotel representation company has already sealed a joint venture with Paris-based travel agent Voyageurs du Monde to handle Europe tours, and is now seeking a JV partner in Asia for regional itineraries.

President International and chairman of the Board, Jaume Tapies, in an interview in Singapore yesterday, said 25 per cent of bookings by clients involved a string of hotels, while a survey done by Relais & Chateaux showed all clients expected itinerary planning assistance.

Another reason why it is going into tour operating is a rise in Internet bookings. With the Internet, the Relais & Chateaux website can be “a one-stop shop”.

“Agents are also able to book these tours and earn their commissions,” Tapies said.

The ideal Asian partner it seeks is “a top tour operator which does a la carte, tailor-made tours, as every client wants something different”.

“We don’t want to be just hotels and restaurants. We want to be able to put together the links between them. After all, our origins were (centred) on ‘the road to happiness’,” he said.

Despite its French origin, name and brand that conjure European country houses or manors, Relais & Chateaux is rapidly growing in Asia. There are currently 51 members in Asia-Pacific. In five years, their goal is 200 members.

Tapies said the way for Relais & Chateaux to have a slice of Asia’s bursting outbound market for all its 500 members was to have more Asians travelling within Asia and staying at Relais & Chateaux members. This makes Asia top priority for more new members.

Europe currently contributes 60 per cent of business to Relais & Chateaux members, and North America, 20 per cent, with others accounting for the rest.

Apart from going into tour operating, Tapies also unveiled other new initiatives for this year, including producing books such as Chefs at Home featuring its grand chefs, and launching niche marketing centring on food and wine events/experiences, celebrations, romantic escapes, special interests and rest-and-relax.

– Read more in TTG Asia, Guide to Hotels – Marketing Representation, May 27

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