Q – One of the things we’ve noticed about working with your company is that we seem to never get into price or discount discussions. We’ve been happy with everything but wonder if we’re unusual in that we never feel the need to raise the topic?

A – Interesting question. The consumer is overwhelmed with cruise and tour offerings that always stress deals and discounts. For instance, mainstream cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are constantly changing their pricing as are the mass market escorted tour companies to encourage early as well as late bookings. It is assumed that everyone on a 4,000 passenger ship or flying in coach overseas realizes that everyone around them got a different price. That is the norm. But the top-end deluxe products in cruising and touring realize that pricing discrepancies can ruin a travel experience for upscale travelers. So the discounting they do is upfront and generally transparent. Most of the discounts are related to early bookings. Last-minute bookings are normally higher because no one at Tauck, A&K, Seabourn, or Ritz Carlton Yachts, wants the subject to come up at dinner with disastrous results.

So here is the thing – if your cruise stateroom is discounted by $1300, some travel agents will offer you a $1000 discount and pocket the rest. This often happens at online travel agency call centers because you are relying on what someone in Miami, Manilla, or Mumbai is telling you on the phone.

Our guests know that we certify in writing that we will obtain, document, and then return 100% of all applicable discounts on every travel product we represent. Nothing is kept “for the house” – never. So, because of that strategy, we know that we are obtaining and returning all discounts. That is why we never worry or really discuss very much, issues related to pricing.

You might well ask “all good – but how do we know that your pricing is the best legitimate pricing available”? Look at it this way: Virtuoso is the largest seller of luxury travel in the world. We are larger than American Express. In 2019 we did over $27 Billion in annual sales and were the top sellers of nearly every top-tier tour company and five-star cruise line. Add to that the fact that Churchill & Turen has been named Virtuoso’s Top-Producing Consultants for four of the past five years. Add to that our journalistic credentials and the audience for our media group. When we call – the suppliers know who we are and they do not give us anything but the best pricing available. It won’t be pricing that is exclusive to us – but it will almost always be the best pricing available. Our guests have come to trust that this is true.

But please read the above carefully. We never said that we have the “best prices”.  We specifically said, “it won’t be pricing that is exclusive to us”. All of the top travel firms receive exactly the same pricing from their leading suppliers. If that were not the case, we would stop representing them. Anytime any travel business claims to have “exclusive” of “best pricing offers” it is flat-out lying. Don’t be a naive consumer. Anyone who makes outrageous pricing claims is insulting your intelligence.