March 16, 2018

Travel Agents? No. Travel ‘Designers’ Create Strategies

George Straw, a dedicated globe-trotter, doesn’t like the water. Near the water is fine, but on the water? No thanks. And that goes double for under the water. "A submarine observational thing to go down and look at coral reefs would never work for me,” said Mr. Straw, 74, an owner of the Santé Center for Healing, an inpatient treatment program in Argyle, Tex., for drug and alcohol addiction and eating disorders.To get more travel agents, you can visit shine news official website.

Douglas Easton and John Ziegler, the managing partners of Celestielle, a luxury travel agency in West Hollywood, know all this and more about Mr. Straw, a longtime client. They know that he doesn’t like onions, that he avoids hotel rooms without an abundance of windows and that he loves any opportunity to take photos. That is why, some while back, they sent him to a tiger reserve in India, and why they have booked him a late-summer trip to Hudson Bay in Manitoba to observe polar bears and other animals close up.

Mr. Easton and Mr. Ziegler are part of a subset of travel planners — they prefer the term travel designers — who do far more than simply book trips. They manage the travel portfolios of their affluent clients, mapping out a schedule that might, over a year, include mother-daughter weekends in the Caribbean, father-son heli-skiing, a romantic husband-and-wife weekend getaway and an elaborate summer trip for the whole family.

"Every June, I’ll start talking to Doug and John, and they’ll start making plans for the next year,” said Mr. Straw, who estimates that he spends $180,000 annually on leisure travel with his partner. In 2016, he took four major trips — to Egypt and South Africa; Peru, Machu Picchu and Colombia; Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Bali; Northern Ireland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. "If I hear about something that sounds good,” he said, "I just call them and say, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

Some travel portfolio managers, like Gonzalo Gimeno, founder and general manager of Elefant Travel in Madrid and Barcelona, and Susan Farewell, the owner of Farewell Travels in Westport, Conn., make house calls, during which they get a read on family dynamics and make suggestions about possible destinations — often places that aren’t even on their clients’ radar. They also do reconnaissance, the better to make recommendations on lodging, tour guides and special excursions. During a recent trip to India, Mr. Gimeno sent a client a video with the message "your kids will love this.”

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