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A-List 2010: World's Top Travel Agents

An illustration of traveling icons.

Photo: Nola Lopez

Anne Morgan Scully **
Known For: Taking days, even weeks, to find out exactly what her clients want—and then giving them something they wouldn’t have thought to ask for. “They are really open to new experiences,” she says. Case in point: as a surprise for a musician traveling in Russia, Scully arranged for a visit to the house-museum of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov—where the client was invited to play the composer’s piano.
Trend Watch: An escalation of requests for privacy: this means villas, villas, villas. Expect rentals in Morocco, South Africa, Thailand, and Brazil to soon be as commonplace as they are in Italy and France.
Fee: Varies.

Pallavi Shah *
Known For: Her knowledge of every corner of the Indian subcontinent. Shah’s connections in India range from the far northern reaches of the Punjab to the backwaters of Kerala and the exquisite Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu. (Italophiles take note, however: Shah is no slouch on the secret pleasures and top luxuries of Italy, either.)
Trend Watch: Shah just returned from Turkey, which she sees becoming more popular as a Mediterranean summer destination. Istanbul, too, is gaining ground—and giving Dubai a run for its money—as a natural stopover en route to India: chic, awash in cultural and culinary attractions, and now serviced by nonstop flights from New York on Turkish Airlines.
Fee: Varies.

Jim Strong ** and Nancy Strong
Known For: Besides their far-reaching connections, the Strongs run their business based on highly attentive service. Not a single itinerary has ever been planned over e-mail, and, Jim says, he or his mother, Nancy, has a conversation with each new client to gauge not just travel habits but lifestyle choices, as well as general interests, before agendas are discussed in any detail.
Trend Watch: While multigenerational travel continues to be a buzzword, the Strongs are seeing the return of a phenomenon that fell decidedly by the wayside at the low point of the recession: luxury travel. Clients are favoring both the U.S. (Napa, New York, southern California) and Mexico (Jim is particularly excited about Imanta Resorts, a new all-villa property on the Riviera Nayarit).
Fee: From $250 per adult.

Valerie Ann Wilson
Known For: Wilson is willing to pick up the phone herself on any client’s behalf and call one of her many contacts to request that above-and-beyond special something, whether a room upgrade, entry visas turned around in a day, or elevator privileges to the top of the Acropolis for a wheelchair-bound traveler.
Trend Watch: Wilson’s clients are starting to head back to Europe—from Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast to Turkey and Greece—but with very private and exclusive agendas: renting villas or booking out small inns, enlisting top private guides and historians, and bringing in well-known local chefs.
Fee: From $200.

Super-Agent Picks: Spas

Our 10 agents agree: it’s now a given that the best hotels have top-flight spas. “And those that don’t are adding them,” Priscilla Alexander says. Meanwhile, some of the best new destination spas are in the Middle East—Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea, in Jordan; Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, in Dubai; and Banyan Tree Al Wadi, set in a wilderness reserve near the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Icon Key

* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
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