When Tully Luxury Travel made its first bookings 30 years ago, as The Cruise Professionals, it focused on a lucrative and growing Canadian travel trend. But over time the preferences of Canadian travelers, like those in the United States, shifted toward more curated experiences, luxury destinations and adventure travel. And the Toronto-based company evolved with them.
In June 2015, The Cruise Professionals changed its name to Tully, a brand that has since served as an umbrella for its three divisions, Cruise Professionals, African Dreams and Private Travel Designers. The reconfiguration reflected its clients’ changing travel habits away from just cruise trips, to an increasing interest in safaris, resort vacations and custom itineraries.
“Customers are more informed than ever before. They can find most travel options online—but our first-hand expertise and connections on the ground make it possible for us to provide them with experiences they cannot find online,” said Cathy Holler, vice president of Private Travel Designers and African Dreams.
The name change is helping Tully ride the wave of “more choice in lodging (boutique, specialty and luxury family hotels), tours with exclusive experiences, bespoke private travel, villa rentals, and high end Africa travel,” Holler said.
To mark its 30 years in business, Tully has announced a series of new products and events for 2017. It has partnered with Regent Seven Seas Cruises (celebrating its own 25th anniversary) to offer 30 new voyages this year, with each itinerary offering curated experiences and exclusive onboard amenities.
Tully also is working with social enterprise "Me to We" to offer new, bespoke itineraries that include “voluntourism” opportunities focused on health, education and economic development in the rural regions of Kenya, Ecuador and India.
To wrap up the year’s celebrations, CEO Mary Jean Tully will host a three-night New Year’s event at Singita Lebombo Lodge in South Africa.
Founded in 1987 by Mary Jean Tully, The Cruise Professionals began as a boutique agency focused on luxury cruises. Tully sits on the board of a number of luxury cruise lines and hotels.
The company has long-standing preferred partnerships with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Ritz Carlton, Peninsula Hotels, Jumeirah Hotels and Starwood Hotels, and recently added Aman Resorts. Additional luxury hotel partnerships will be announced over the next few months, Holler said.
Luxury Africa expeditions soar in popularity “We have seen the most growth within our African Dreams division. A large number of new luxury hotels and safari lodges have opened in Africa over the past few years and the media coverage is helping to spark demand,” Holler said.
Tully actively markets Africa to its own database of affluent travelers as well as through personal referrals from clients. The majority of its travelers visit South Africa, Botswana, Tanazania and Kenya, though there is also demand for gorilla trekking in Rwanda; safaris in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia; adventures in Madagascar; and beach vacations in Zanzibar, Seychelles and Mozambique.
The company’s strategic change has also shifted its talent focus over time. “Well-travelled travel counselors are an asset, but they also need a mind-set to be a part of the overall inner culture at Tully, and appreciate what travel brings to each individual client. That’s not something you can teach. We look for those qualities in the agents we hire. Then we show them the world through the eyes of a customer.”
Luxury Travel Trends will be a focus at this year’s Travel MarketPlace, in Toronto, June 13-14. You can review the program and register here.
“We have a system and the system works,” says the president of the cruise agency franchisor Expedia CruiseShipCenters. It’s a system that drives growth by attracting new entrants with strong leadership qualities.
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