A travel colleague told me the following story from a few years back: “As I was traveling home yesterday from Ft. Lauderdale, I found myself sitting across the aisle from Don Shula, the famous former coach of the Miami Dolphins. He was sitting in seat 1D..the aisle in the first row of First Class..and, unfortunately, most people recognized him as they came out of the lavatory and stopped to speak and shake his hand. I felt a little bit sorry for him since he couldn't just sit back and relax on the flight, but when I had a chance to ask him if it was annoying he said that, while sometimes he wished for a little solitude, he appreciates the fact that they all feel like they are a part of his "team".
It made me think about how important that is...having a team who has your back. I feel the same after 14+ years in the travel industry. When I custom-craft your luxury cruise and tour itinerary, or put together an amazing (and seamless) group journey throughout Europe, the experience you receive is a direct reflection of a team of people:
1. My Supplier team – When you receive your final itinerary from me, there are usually several hotels, transfers from airports, train stations and piers, Sightseeing Tours, Cruise bookings, Airline reservations, Private guides, and goodness knows what-else - All of these components are sourced based on my relationships and experience with the Tour Operators and other suppliers with whom I have established a level of trust. Anywhere from a major international hotel chain like Starwood, to a 10-room Inn on an Umbrian hilltop, to the mom and pop driver/guides I use in the Amalfi Coast who meet my clients with a chilled bottle of Prosecco in the car and know all the little hideaway spots that can make the difference between an "okay" trip and a "stellar" one. Travel providers take better care of my clients because they don't want to let me down...and I continue to support them because of it. Try getting that when you book online!
2. My Network of other Travel Professionals – I spend lots of time and money every year in professional continuing education and peer networking. My host agency, the Gifted Travel Network, is made up of like-minded Niche and Specialty travel professionals who are some of the most brilliant (and fun!) folks I know. If a client comes to me with a request for a custom itinerary exploring the Great Wall of China, an African Safari or a Bed & Breakfast tour of New Zealand, I may not know the immediate answers....but I sure as heck know where to find them! And we don't hesitate to refer clients among each other...because I would sure want MY trip to the Great Wall of China planned meticulously by an agent who has intimate knowledge of the area and has the supplier relationships in place to make it a trip to remember!
In return, I receive referrals for their cruise, tour and group clients, for the exact same reasons. We have each other's backs and the clients are the ones who reap the benefits!
3. My Team of past, present and prospective Clients – I really learn as much from YOU as I hope you do from me! Every luxury traveler has different hopes, needs and dreams for their perfect vacation and it is MY job to make sure they are all met. So, if I ask you too many random questions during the planning process, or follow up before you have time to get over your jet lag - my apologies. Just understand that what I learn from your honest feedback helps me to better serve more people in the future.
So that's who's on my team...and I'm sure Coach Don Shula understands how we all work together to be successful. I hope it is reassuring to know how many folks have your back when you allow me to plan your next vacation !! Where will you go next???