One-on-One with Diane McDavitt, President and Co-founder of LuxuryLink Travel Group

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  1. In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Diane McDavitt, President & Co-Founder of Luxury Link Travel Group, the premier online destination for great deals on luxury vacations.

    By partnering with world-class hotels, resorts, villas and cruise lines, LuxuryLink offers luxury vacation deals to sophisticated travelers at a substantial savings – up to 65% off – often including complimentary extras, amenities and activities for the best value available anywhere.

    Diane McDavitt, president, Luxury Link Travel Group

    “When we qualify partners, we look at essential services and amenities of course, but we also take into consideration the uniqueness of the property and how it reflects the destination – we believe the experience should include a sense of place. Crystal and chandeliers are perfect for Paris, but not necessarily right in Costa Rica.”
    – Diane McDavitt, President, Luxury Link

    Luxury Link offers discounted access to high-end exotic destinations at deep discounts. How do you do this?
    Our partner hotels are eager to reach our audience of sophisticated travelers. To entice them to visit, the hotels create exclusive, limited availability packages that can only be booked through Luxury Link. And because the hotels are putting their best foot forward, the packages are valid for travel for up to a year. So it’s a virtuous circle: the hotel benefits by gaining a potential long-term relationship with a qualified customer and the customer gets an amazing VIP travel experience at an incredible price.
    How do you decide what is considered a “luxury” vacation? What criteria do you use to “hand pick” the destination deals you serve up? Is there a standard bearer? We have a vetting committee that reviews every hotel before they are accepted for inclusion on the Luxury Link site. Partnership is by invitation only; unfortunately we are unable to accept 70% to 80% of the properties that contact us. When we are qualifying partners we look at essential services and amenities of course, but we also take into consideration the uniqueness of the property and how it reflects the destination – we believe the experience should include a sense of place. Crystal and chandeliers are perfect for Paris, but not necessarily right in Costa Rica.
    Some luxury vacations carry incredibly high price tags – even after a discount. Do you think Luxury Link is still catering to a largely affluent traveler or are these deals accessible by travelers of more modest middle class means?
    Our most recent Comscore statistics show 40% of our users earn $200k and above and one third are C-level executives, so we do have our share of affluent travelers. That said, the same study shows we are appealing to more aspirationals, largely because we have plenty of opportunities for them to sample luxury travel without breaking the bank. In addition to some amazing trips to exotic locales we also feature many terrific weekend getaways and promotional offers, some of which price out to less than $100 per person, per night. (But please don’t tell anyone, our regular users will kill me – they don’t want the competition!)
    Are there any tips on how to maximize use of Luxury Link? Are there any tricks for getting in on the auction deals?
    We always recommend perusing the site for a few days to get a feel for the destinations and the hotels we feature. If you find one you like, make it one of your Luxury Link “Favorites” and sign up for an email alert each time a new auction package from that property is launched. Luxury Link’s automated bidding system allows you to enter your maximum bid – the system will bid on your behalf, ensuring you never pay more than your maximum but you may pay less.
    What are some creative ways your subscribers have used Luxury Link?
    We have a lot of family reunions planned on Luxury Link (our villa auctions are a great opportunity to bring everyone together for what turns out to be very little on a per person basis). We also had a woman buy a Luxury Link trip to reunite her father and her uncle who had been separated for nearly a decade – the trip was their opportunity to reconnect after all those years apart. We’ve also recently partnered with “Pack for a Purpose,” a non-profit group that advises travelers what they might pack to benefit local orphanages and schools in the destinations they visit (leaving an extra pair of shoes at home and using the extra space in your suitcase to carry 500 pencils or a solar calculator can make a world of difference). So there is an opportunity to take a fabulous trip and give back a little in the process.
    Tell our readers about Luxury Lounge. How has your forum added value to what Luxury Link offers?
    We’ve always considered Luxury Link to be something of an online cocktail party – where like-minded travelers can swap stories about their travels and pass along tips for playing the auctions and getting great deals, along with general Q & A about luxury hotels and new destinations. The Luxury Lounge is an extension of that – visitors can even start their own travel blog and post it live on the spot.
    There are two other Luxury Link off-shoots on your website: Family Getaway and Vacationist. Can you tell our readers about these two services and what they offer in comparison to Luxury Link?
    Family Getaway, as the name implies, is geared toward family travel – we had heard from so many Luxury Link loyalists desperately seeking a Luxury Link-like site for their family vacations that we launched to meet that need. The packages on Family Getaway are all designed for multiple guests, typically inclusive of kids but we also recognize families come in all shapes and sizes – parents traveling with adult children, friends as family, etc. Vacationist is a flash sale site launched in conjunction with Travel + Leisure magazine. We run 15 sales per week on average and the site is ideal for the traveler looking for room nights only at an exceptional savings. Each property also has an unbiased write-up from Travel + Leisure reporters inclusive of insider tips about the destination.
    What are the hot (and discounted) luxury destination options this summer and how should our readers take advantage now?
    While it might seem counter-intuitive, we have a lot of interest in our Caribbean and Mexico packages for the summer months. Though the weather can be unpredictable the rates are exceptional, and beating the crowds is a huge plus. We also have some fun Hawaii packages – high season in Hawaii tends to coincide with winter in the U.S., which is not necessarily the best time weather-wise to visit Hawaii. Early June and September to mid-December are months that can be a real opportunity for travelers looking for the best of all worlds in their Hawaiian vacation: value, fewer crowds, nice weather. Finally, I mentioned villas earlier – regardless of the destination, villa vacations are a huge value for a summer trip – a family or small group, even just a “group” of two – can enjoy an extraordinary experience…be it in Tuscany, Anguilla, Puerto Vallarta or other fabulous destinations – for a virtual song. We have some exceptional villa trips on auction right now that are less than $100 per person, per night, for a fabulous private villa with private pool, chef, and more.

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