A-List: World's Top Travel Agents 2011

A-List: World's Top Travel Agents 2011

Bo Lundberg
Bo Lundberg
Bo Lundberg

Whether you’re looking to plan the trip of a lifetime, secure a great guide, or snag a hotel upgrade, booking with an expert beats the click of the mouse any day. T+L evaluated thousands of agents to come up with this highly selective list of the best in the business.

Super-Agents
Europe
U.S. & Canada
Latin America
The Caribbean
Africa & the Middle East
Asia
Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific
Special Interest

Super-Agents

With a wealth of expertise, these power brokers are the most informed and best connected in the travel industry.

Priscilla Alexander **
Known For: Her ability to match clients to the right agent among her hundreds of employees—a relationship she firmly believes determines the success of a trip. Alexander listens carefully to what you’re saying (and what you’re not saying) to determine who’ll work best with you to create the ultimate travel experience.
Trend Watch: River cruises, which have become popular for Protravel in Europe and are a great way of seeing different parts of the Continent. Viking’s and AmaWaterways’ routes along the Rhine and Danube are especially good values.
Fee: Varies.

Barbara Gallay **
Known For: Deep connections with top hotel general managers across the globe. Now with the reach and clout of global travel company Frosch (which acquired Gallay’s boutique agency Linden Travel in 2009), she is uniquely primed to pull strings, open doors, and find room when many others claim it’s impossible.
Trend Watch: Montenegro on the Adriatic, particularly the new Aman Sveti Stefan. “I’ve received a lot of inquiries about the property for next year,” Gallay says.
Fee: Varies.

Lisa Lindblad
Known For: Her eagle eye in uncovering the truly authentic, cultivated over decades of merging the high-end with the rustic, the undiscovered with the venerated. Lindblad’s background is cultural anthropology, so if it’s the best suzanis in Kazakhstan or finest handwoven ikat silk sinhs in Laos you’re after, Lindblad’s your agent.
Trend Watch: José Ignacio, in Uruguay, where a new Setai hotel is about to make its debut alongside the Fasano, Estancia Vik, and Playa Vik.
Fee: Varies.

Mary Ann Ramsey **
Known For: Tracking down hidden gems and what’s new in hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and cruises. Ramsey spends days at a destination—always with advance reports from ground staff about where to go, from the popular to the under-the-radar spots.
Trend Watch: Southern India. Ramsey encourages clients to visit Kerala or Karnataka to “see a different side of Indian culture.” For those intent on a Rajasthan agenda, she likes to include a soft-adventure excursion to Jaisalmer, where you’ll stay in a tented camp such as the Serai.
Fee: Varies.

Guy Rubin *
Known For: Rubin is the China expert other agents call for recommendations (among those who outsource to him is members-only travel club Nota Bene). His superb coterie of guides—one of whom is carefully matched with each client—dissolve cultural barriers and enhance any experience, whether it’s dinner in the French Concession mansion of a Shanghai socialite or a visit to a local food market in Beijing.
Trend Watch: Lhasa, Tibet, where the recent opening of a St. Regis (and upcoming arrival of the InterContinental Resort Lhasa Paradise) could, Rubin believes, change the way Western travelers perceive this destination.
Fee: $200.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


Anne Morgan Scully **
Known For: “Travel experiences form a sort of wardrobe,” Scully says. And in this respect, her repeat-trip record with clients makes her their personal shopper. She carefully assesses taste, style, and comfort levels to craft trips that fit to a T. As such, Scully recognizes that often the tried and true trumps the new—to wit: she’s been a champion of London’s Goring hotel for two decades, long before Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (then Kate Middleton) chose to stay there the night before her wedding.
Trend Watch: The rise of knowledgeable tour guides—an increasingly crucial part of almost any trip, Scully says. For her clients, this might mean being matched with a local professor who can put every site into historical context.
Fee: Varies.

Pallavi Shah *
Known For: Her in-depth expertise on India and Italy, with a focus on art. Shah can get access to cultural sites and private collections that aren’t open to the public. She’s fast becoming a master on Turkey as well, and will guide you through the back rooms of Istanbul’s bazaar and to the ruins of Laodicea.
Trend Watch: The Golden Chariot train routes, which traverse the southern Indian state of Karnataka. A few highlights: private tours of the Hoysala complex at Belur and the Jain pilgrim site of Sravanabelagola, as well as visits to organic farms.
Fee: $450.

Jim Strong ** and Nancy Strong
Known For: The Strongs know first impressions count: that’s why in Dallas, where Strong Travel Services is based, their VIP clients are brought to the airport in a customized Mercedes-Benz van decked out with a 32-inch television that plays a personalized video detailing their upcoming trip. Signature suites, top guides, and airport escorts are par for the course, all the product of understanding how to maximize every experience for people with limited time—what Jim Strong calls “sophisticated editing.”
Trend Watch: Laucala, the island resort in Fiji. According to the Strongs, the property outdoes the competition in almost every regard, from the top-notch cuisine (all of the produce is grown organically) to the array of activities on offer, from deep-sea fishing to yoga classes.
Fee: $250.

Valerie Wilson
Known For: Wilson runs one of the country’s most prestigious agencies (which this fall celebrates 30 years in the business), sits on half a dozen corporate travel advisory boards, and just reissued a comprehensive guide to the world’s best hotels (to be published in November and sold on Amazon), but her calling card is still hardworking agent. She’s more than willing to pick up the phone herself to ensure that her clients’ needs are met, whether that means getting a hotel upgrade or snagging a hard-to-book restaurant reservation. trend watch The South Pacific islands are seeing a spike in interest (and not just from honeymooners). Wilson recently booked a family at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, with on-staff marine biologists for science lessons for the children. She’s equally impressed by Bora-Bora’s St. Regis Resort, where kids can take Polynesian arts-and-crafts lessons.
Fee: $200.

Joel A. Zack *
Known For: Creative and experiential itineraries that get at the heart of the communities that make a destination. South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Turkey are the pillars of his company, Heritage Tours Private Travel. Activities run the gamut from cooking lessons at Babylonstoren, in the Cape Winelands, South Africa, to exploring religious architecture in Fez and Essaouira, in Morocco.
Trend Watch: Eastern Turkey—still off the beaten path, Zack says, and Arab culture is far more in evidence here. He flies clients out from Istanbul with East Turkish guides for two- and three-day excursions. For an authentic seaside escape, Zack loves Alaçati, on the Çeşme Peninsula, a less-touristy alternative to Bodrum.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


Europe

Czech Republic & Slovakia

Nathalie Nagy
New Favorite: The Kempinski Hotel River Park, in Bratislava, Slovakia. Just a few minutes’ walk from Old Town, it’s an unexpectedly modern property with white leather couches, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a cigar club that doubles as a hip bar at night.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: From $150.

England

Ellen LeCompte
Insider Clout: Clients who stay at the Ritz, on Piccadilly, in London, get immediate membership to the private Ritz Club. With top Bordeaux-born chef Philippe Vandewalle in the kitchen, it’s one of the hottest seats in town. Added bonus: the gambling is legal and the lounge, unlike almost every other in the city, stays open until 6 a.m.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: United States.
Fee: $250.

Tammi R. Van Volkinburgh
New Favorite: Van Volkinburgh praises the Stafford, in London’s St. James’s neighborhood, for its intimacy and perfect location, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. The renovated carriage-house rooms and junior suites overlook a cobblestoned courtyard.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Safaris.
Fee: From $300.

Susie Worthy
Insider Clout: Last year, Worthy was granted exclusive access to give tours at Highgrove House, the residence of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, in Gloucestershire. She’ll take you through Prince Charles’s progressive and sustainable English garden, followed by a champagne toast at the estate’s Orchard Room.
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: France.
Fee: Varies.

France

Craig Loupassakis
Top Tip: “Road trips are a great way to see a country,” says Loupassakis, who touts Auto Europe as the best—and most price-conscious—car-rental agency abroad. In Provence, his favorite day excursion includes a driving tour from Uzès to Pont du Gard to Nîmes.
Years as Agent: 47.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $150.

Germany

Elisabeth Landry
Top Tip: Don’t miss Berlin’s traditional holiday Christkindlmarkt, when bratwurst stands, glühwein tastings, and vendors selling local crafts take over Gendarmenmarkt Platz, in Mitte.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $200.


Greece

Mina Agnos +
Top Tips: For souvenirs, Agnos loves the gift shop at the Benaki Museum, in Athens, which is filled with ceramics, embroidered stationery, and delicate handmade reproductions of museum artifacts. In Mykonos, her go-to spot is Nammos restaurant, on Psarou Beach, for the freshest sea urchin in the Aegean.
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Egypt.
Fee: From $250.

Kelly Shea
New Favorite: The Aegean Suites, in Skiathos, and sister property Skiathos Princess top Shea’s hotel list for their stylish white-on-white décor and proximity to what she calls probably the most beautiful beaches in Greece. And in Vouliagmeni, 10 minutes outside Athens, Shea fell hard for the Arion Resort & Spa, with its chic blue-and-white maritime furnishings and large wooden decks off every room.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $250.

Christos Stergiou
New Favorite: For culture buffs, Stergiou recommends the Onassis Cultural Center, in Athens, a 195,000-square-foot exhibition and performance complex showcasing emerging dance and theater talents.
Years as Agent: 7.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $100.

Ireland

Carol Cornell
Excited About: In County Galway, the 18th-century Ballynahinch Castle is a 420-acre old-school sporting estate. Cornell is especially impressed by the range of activities, from river fishing to skeet shooting.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $100.

Italy

Margot Cushing
Excited About: The growing popularity of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna makes an ideal base from which to explore the lesser-known medieval towns of Ravenna and Modena (where the Ferrari HQ is a counterpoint to the Romanesque architecture).
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Mediterranean.
Fee: $300.

Joyce Falcone
New Favorite: In Sicily, the just-opened Foresteria, on the Planeta wine estate—a vineyard, inn, and cooking school. The rooms are stylishly spare, with iron beds and woven cotton rugs. Best asset: chefs take guests on island-wide wine tours.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Italian islands.
Fee: $400.

Andrea Grisdale
Insider Clout: For a writer client researching a novel about World War II–era Italy, Grisdale opened her little black book to arrange meetings with a Venetian countess, the scion of Italy’s oldest silk-weaving company, and a former U.S. military official.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: None.
Fee: From $200.

Deborah Hyte
New Favorite: The most recent addition to Sicily’s bustling hotel scene, the contemporary Metropole Taormina Maison d’Hôtes. For nearly 40 years, the 18th-century palace remained closed, until receiving a top-to-bottom makeover in 2010. Most of the 23 now-contemporary, brightly colored suites have views of the Bay of Naxos.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Western Europe.
Fee: From $400.

Judy Nussbaum
Excited About: The never-waning appeal of Capri. Specifically, Nussbaum cites last year’s merger of the Capri Palace hotel with Il Riccio, the stylish restaurant and exclusive beach club. Her clients who stay at the property get first dibs on the club’s beachside chaise longues and hard-to-book tables.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: France.
Fee: From $100.

Andrea Sertoli
Excited About: Rome’s revamped Air Terminal at Ostiense Station, where a branch of the gourmet food hall Eataly is set to open next month. Culinary stars attached to the venture include Adriano Baldassarre from Sibilla restaurant, in Tivoli, and Carlo Cracco of Milan’s Ristorante Carlo Cracco.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialty: Croatia.
Fee: From $100.

Marjorie Shaw
New Favorite: Locanda Palazzone, a 14th-century historic villa with an organic vineyard, in Umbria. In keeping with the ethos of Shaw’s company, the property is small (only nine suites) and family-owned.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: Food.
Fee: From $395.

Sally Watkins
New Favorite: Watkins recently discovered Villa Le Maschere—a 65-room villa in Barberino di Mugello, just north of Florence. The hotel has been beautifully renovated with mosaic floors and majolica ceramics. For those who want culture, the hotel operates a daily shuttle service into Florence and another to the shopping outlets at Mugello.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Switzerland.
Fee: From $350.


Russia

Greg Tepper
Excited About: The opening of the contemporary W St. Petersburg, which Tepper believes will attract a younger crowd to the city. He also loves the revamped Cosmonaut Space Museum, in Moscow, which charts the country’s space race from the 1950’s to the present day. “It’s still a real secret.”
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Central Europe.
Fee: $200.

Scandinavia

Carol Arklind
Insider Clout: For several Texan clients, Arklind orchestrated a classic Scandinavian Christmas holiday, with an airport transfer by dogsled and an arrival greeting from the Finnish Santa Claus, Rovaneimi. They then attended a New Year’s Eve dinner in Stockholm.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: United Kingdom.
Fee: From $150.

Tor Jensen
New Favorites: Across Denmark, Jensen has uncovered a host of private castles, some operated as small hotels—among these, he loves Store Restrup Manor House and Santehus Castle Hotel. Jensen can organize private receptions and viewings of the properties.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Thailand.
Fee: From $250.

Scotland

Claire Schoeder
Excited About: Schoeder’s a fan of the new private-hire properties opening up in Scotland. A favorite is Aldourie Castle, on the bank of Loch Ness, where the staff is at the ready to arrange cooking classes, fishing excursions, and falconry lessons.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: England.
Fee: $200.

Spain

Virginia Irurita
Insider Clout: For a client who was curious about the lives of Spanish nuns, Irurita arranged a visit with the abbess at Santa María Real de las Huelgas Monastery, in Burgos, the most prestigious convent in Spain. The abbess spent an hour explaining the daily life of a modern-day nun, then gave Irurita’s client a tour, and even baked her a cake for the occasion.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Food and wine.
Fee: From $150.

Judith Wolf
Excited About: How the W Barcelona, a sail-shaped tower designed by architect Ricardo Bofills, will help rejuvenate the Barceloneta neighborhood with its 26th-floor bar, Bliss spa, and top-notch Catalan restaurant.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialties: Turkey, Italy.
Fee: From $200.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


Switzerland

Ilene Koenig +
New Favorite: On Koenig’s radar are the revamped lakefront rooms at the Baur au Lac hotel, in Zurich, with their mix of modern and traditional décor and prime views of the Alps.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Winter sports.
Fee: From $175.

Turkey

Fred Poe
Excited About: As relations improve between Armenia and Turkey, the eastern Kars region, marked by ancient citadels and the ruins of the medieval city state of Ani, will become the next must-see area in the country. Early explorers can stay at the Kars Hotel, a former Russian nobleman’s palace.
Years as Agent: 51.
Other Specialty: Austria.
Fee: From $150.

U.S. & Canada

Alaska

Edward Phillips **
Excited About: The hip new microbreweries popping up across Alaska. Phillips can organize a tour of his favorite spots, including Denali Brewing Company, in Talkeetna.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: From $150.

Margret Propper
New Favorite: Propper is crazy about the Museum of the North, at the University of Alaska, in Fairbanks. The glacier-shaped structure houses Alaskan art that spans several genres, from garden installations and taxidermy to traditional Inuit stone and beadwork.
Years as Agent: 37.
Other Specialty: River cruises.
Fee: From $100.

Hawaii

Carolyne Brandon
New Favorite: On the Big Island, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was redone to the tune of $150 million. Brandon’s favorite additions: spacious rooms with soaking tubs overlooking the Pacific and a Balinese-inspired spa.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: Varies.

Darlene Mulkewich
Special Booking: A couple requesting a fun adventure were chauffeured to the top of Haleakala at dawn, and then coasted down on bicycles that had been brought to the summit. They spent the afternoon with a private surf instructor testing out the swells before a beachside dinner at the Four Seasons.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Alaskan cruises.
Fee: Varies.

New Orleans

Linda Kibak +
Top Tip: In-the-know locals love Adolfo’s, an intimate two-room restaurant upstairs from the Apple Barrel in the French Quarter. Snag one of the 12-odd tables on the late side when the staff is cheery and order the cannelloni stuffed with crabmeat from the Italian-Creole menu.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Switzerland.
Fee: Varies.

New York City

Amy Glass
Excited About: The Chatwal hotel, which Glass praises for helping to resurrect midtown’s cachet. Leather-lined closets and suede walls, the Kashwére spa, and lobby bar/lounge with serious Mad Men appeal are attracting the city’s jet set.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Costa Rica.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


Western U. S.

Harold Jenkins
Top Tip: Only 240 miles separate Sun Valley, Idaho, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Make the most of the drive by taking the scenic Route 20/I-93 east through the high plains, stopping by Craters of the Moon National Park.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Skiing.
Fee: Varies.

Deborah Trevino
New Favorite: In Borrego Springs, California, Galleta Meadows is a private estate whose owner commissioned a series of massive steel animal sculptures, which the public can tour via off-road jeep or on foot.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: Varies.

Canada

Yaron Yarimi +
New Favorite: The revamped Rosewood Hotel Georgia, in Vancouver. Housed in a 1927 Georgian Revival mansion, the 155-room property reopened in July with contemporary interiors and a new restaurant, the Hawksworth, where chef David Hawksworth whips up regionally inspired dishes.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: Varies.

Latin America

Argentina

Maita Barrenechea
Excited About: The continuing evolution of Buenos Aires’s Recoleta district. Two noteworthy new hotels: the oak-walled Mio Buenos Aires and the airy Hotel Serena.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Chile.
Fee: Varies.

Brazil

Martin Frankenberg *
Top Tip: For close-to-undiscovered beaches, make your way to the northeastern Alagoas state. Check in to the eco-chic Kenoa Resort, in Maceio, with 12 beachfront villas and an ocean-view spa.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: El Salvador.
Fee: $350.

Chile

Silja Torborg +
Top Tip: Take a road trip from Putre, in the north, to Visviri and back. You’ll traverse the high plains close to the Bolivian border at 12,000 feet.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Soft adventure.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


Costa Rica

Rachael Bockoven Colbert
New Favorite: Los Altos Beach Resort & Spa, in Manuel Antonio, is on Colbert’s radar this year. “It’s a modern condo-rental building perfect for families.”
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Patagonia.
Fee: None.

Ecuador

Tatiana Johnston *
Excited About: Quito’s colonial quarter, where another buzz-worthy hotel, Casa Gangotena, is set to open its doors in November.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Peru.
Fee: None.

Galápagos

Brian Morgan +
Excited About: The new eco-conscious cruise regulations, which will help protect the area’s natural wonders. The standards stipulate that no operators may offer tours of longer than 15 days.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Peru.
Fee: $400.

Mexico

Marianne Braly
Top Tip: Despite Mexico’s challenges, Braly asserts that Tulum remains pristine and secure. Her hotel of choice? BeTulum, where guests dine steps from the water.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $100.

Zachary Rabinor
New Favorites: A clutch of family-owned hotels around the country, including Guaycura, in Todos Santos; Xinalani Yoga Retreat, near Puerto Vallarta and reachable only by boat; and Casa de la Real Aduana, in the hills of Michoacán.
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Guatemala.
Fee: Varies.

Peru

Marisol Mosquera
Excited About: Lima’s thriving culinary scene. Mosquera’s go-to restaurants in the city are Mercado, which serves classic Peruvian dishes, and Maido sushi bar.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Bolivia.
Fee: $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


South America

Emmanuel Burgio
Excited About: The new Pousada Club Del Mar, in José Ignacio, Uruguay. The property is a private club turned hotel with six light-filled suites facing the beach.
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Adventure.

Carlos Fida *
Top Tip: One of Fida’s latest discoveries is the Corn Islands, off Nicaragua’s northeastern coast. “They have everything—pristine beaches, excellent seafood, and affordable hotels.”
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Brazil.
Fee: From $350.

Jerry Greenberg **
Top Tip: Book a boat trip along the Tigre River with Sturla Viajes, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. “It’s a great way to see the area’s traditional stilt houses.”
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Italian lakes.
Fee: $200.

Eric Sheets *
New Favorite: Isla Suasi, on Puno, in Peru—a solar-powered eco-lodge on Lake Titicaca’s only private island. Sheets books his clients into the Andean Cottage, a two-bedroom suite with its own dock.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Ecuador.
Fee: From $250.

The Caribbean

Margie Hand
New Favorite: In the Dutch West Indies, Curaçao is celebrating a year of independence from Holland and has a new 36-year-old president, Gerrit Schotte, who’s intent on turning the island into an eco-conscious and high-end destination. Hand loves the Asian-inspired Baoase Luxury Resort—a sleek, mostly villa property, where guests can picnic on the beach by torchlight with their own waiter.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Weddings.
Fee: Varies.

Janet McLaughlin
Excited About: Set at the foot of El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico, the new St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is perfect for both nature lovers and culture aficionados. The property sits on a powdery stretch of sand bordered by lush jungle, and is just 30 minutes from Old San Juan.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $150.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


Africa & the Middle East

Africa

Bob Berghaier *
Insider Clout: Berghaier, a wildlife specialist before becoming a travel consultant, has been following the Great Migration for more than three decades. He’ll examine your travel dates and budget to book you the best possible camp for seeing it.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Wildlife tours.
Fee: Varies.

Katie Cadar
Special Booking: Cadar recently sent two couples to Rwanda for gorilla tracking at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge; then to the Serengeti in Tanzania to ride horses with zebras, followed by a hot-air-balloon ride at Singita Sasakwa; and ended the trip with a stay at the Palms Zanzibar.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: French Polynesia.
Fee: $100.

Sandy Cunningham *
New Favorite: Campi Ya Kanzi’s Ithumba Camp and Elephant Sanctuary, at the foot of the Chyulu Hills, in Kenya, where guests can adopt and bottle-feed foster elephants and witness their reintroduction into the wild.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: New Mexico.
Fee: None.

Phoebe Weinberg
Insider Clout: Weinberg’s connections reach far across South Africa. Examples: on Robben Island, she can arrange a meeting with a former ANC official who was incarcerated during the same period as Nelson Mandela; and at Le Quartier Français hotel, in the Cape Winelands, she’ll set up a private cooking lesson with the hotel’s renowned chef, Margot Janse.
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: Varies.

Dana Welch
Special Booking: For a small group on a monthlong journey through Africa, Welch arranged a climbing expedition on Mount Kilimanjaro, a safari in the Serengeti, and scuba diving off Zanzibar.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $100.

Botswana

Craig Beal +
Special Booking: It helps to have entertained the GM’s of many of Southern Africa’s top hotels and camps in your own house. Beal recently organized a 30-day African honeymoon with stays at Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor; Botswana’s Mombo Camp; Azura Beach Lodge, on the Bazaruto Archipelago, in Mozambique; and Cape Grace, in Cape Town.
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialty: Zimbabwe.
Fee: Varies.

East Africa

Jeanie Fundora *
Insider Clout: For VIP American clients in need of top security for a trip to East Africa, Fundora arranged to charter the private helicopter of a prominent politician in Rwanda for their use. “It’s the best one in the country,” she explains.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Indian Ocean islands.
Fee: None.

Egypt

Malaka Hilton
Excited About: Post-revolution Egypt and what it means for her clients—incredible value, fewer crowds, and access to new sites. Thanks to Hilton’s connections, she can set up meetings with key revolutionary figures.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Jordan.
Fee: From $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List


Israel

Rachel Epstein *
New Favorite: The just-opened Beresheet hotel, high above the Ramon Crater, in the southern Negev region. Epstein got a sneak preview before its late-April opening and is already booking clients into the slick, stone-walled suites (many with private pools).
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Spain.
Fee: Varies.

Middle East

Janet Moore *
Insider Find: Beirut has a lot of buzz at the moment—one of Moore’s favorite spots is Tawlet – Souk el Tayeb, the city’s first restaurant with an open kitchen, where every day a different chef prepares lunch. In the evening, classic Lebanese dishes are served in a separate dining room (reservations required).
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Asia.
Fee: None.

Morocco

Michael Diamond *
Special Booking: For a couple requesting a romantic night out, Diamond organized to fly them by helicopter from Marrakesh to a restored casbah surrounded by olive groves in the desert. Twenty drummers sounded their arrival, and live music accompanied their multicourse dinner.
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: None.

Safaris

Mark Nolting
Insider Find: A roster of local guides across Africa, including in the Zambezi River Valley, in Zimbabwe, and in Hwange National Park, near the Botswana border. Their walking and canoeing expeditions bring clients face-to-face with bull elephants, rhinos, and lions.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Egypt.
Fee: None.

Norman Pieters *
New Favorite: Pieters spends, on average, one month every year in Africa. His latest discovery? Mara Plains Camp, in the Olare Orok private conservancy bordering the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Aside from top-notch service, its excellent location within a private conservancy allows guests to have a first-rate East African wildlife experience without the burden of heavy vehicle congestion.
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: $250.

Southern Africa

Julian Harrison *
New Favorite: In Zambia, Harrison loves the new Kalamu Lagoon Star-Bed Camp, in South Luangwa National Park, a rustic hotel set 10 feet off the ground with twin beds swathed in mosquito nets and the night sky as your roof.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Kenya.
Fee: None.

Judy Udwin *
Insider Clout: For a couple’s seven-year-old twins, Udwin organized a separate safari itinerary that included a private chef (who whipped up pizza in the bush) and guides for kid-centric activities on land and water. She finished things off, with the grown-ups in mind, at a fully staffed, exclusive villa on the beach in Mozambique.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: From $150.

United Arab Emirates

Lindsey Wallace *
Top Tip: Camel’s milk is the ingredient of the moment in Dubai, finding its way into high-end specialty shops and dishes at some of the city’s top restaurants, Wallace says. While there, check in to his favorite spot: the new Ottoman-inspired Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, with views of the sea.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: The Maldives.
Fee: None.

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Asia

Bali

Diane Embree
New Favorite: Long a fan of the Tugu Bali for its laid-back take on luxury, she now also recommends the nearby Tugu Lombok, which faces a private stretch of Sire beach.
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Southeast Asia.
Fee: Varies.

Burma

Rebecca Mazzaro
Top Tip: Don’t miss the Taunggyi Balloon Festival, in Shan state, when villagers convene on the November full moon to display handmade paper balloons.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: None.

Darlene Ravin
Best Bite: In the middle of Inle Lake, in southern Burma, Nam Pan restaurant serves delicious fish and looks out onto the traditional Nam Pan village, which is built on stilts.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $100.

China

Karin Hansen
Excited About: Lijiang, in Yunnan province, where the new Pullman Lijiang Resort & Spa is giving the Banyan Tree a run for its money.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Thailand.
Fee: From $200.

Mei Zhang *
Excited About: A lack of infrastructure had slowed travel to Diqing, in Yunnan province, but a road completed last spring is already creating a spike in tourism to its newly unesco-designated Three Rivers region.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Tibet.
Fee: From $400.

Hong Kong

Laura Woo
Insider Find: Sai Kung, in the New Territories, is morphing from a snoozy fishing village into a popular seaside escape thanks to handy ferry connections and a thriving street-food scene.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: Varies.

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India/Sri Lanka

Jonny Bealby +
Insider Tip: The Chandrabhaga Cattle & Camel Fair near Jhalawar, India, happens on the same full moon as the Pushkar festival; it easily attracts as many Rabari tribespeople, but is far less touristy.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Pakistan.
Fee: Varies.

Carole Cambata +
Top Tip: Don’t miss early morning prayers at the Thiksey monastery, near Leh, in northern India. “When the prayers end, the younger monks suddenly run outside laughing to play. It’s a wonderful spectacle.”
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Asia.
Fee: Varies.

Sandee Litwin
Special Booking: Litwin organized a wedding in Jaipur, India, complete with camels and Bollywood-style dancers.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: $150.

Ellison Poe
Excited About: For the ultimate culture fix, head to the Festival of the Tooth, in Kandy, Sri Lanka, a celebration in July that commences with the planting of a jack tree and ends with the firing of cannons.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: East Africa.
Fee: From $150.

Ashish Sanghrajka *
New Favorites: Bordering the Nagarhole forest in Karnataka, India, the sustainable Orange County Resort is a must-see; and in Nairobi, Kenya, he’s crazy about Sankara, a boutique property with a 1,000-bottle wine cellar.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Kenya.
Fee: $500.

Japan

Noriko Townsend *
New Favorites: The old Nakasendo Road between Magome and Tsumago runs into thick forest where soft adventurers can spot boars, black bears, and serows.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: China.
Fee: $150.

Duff Trimble +
Excited About: The rise of Japanese single-malt whiskeys. Trimble will put together a tour of the country’s best producers, including Yamazaki, outside Kyoto.
Years as Agent: 9.
Fee: Varies.

Southeast Asia

Wido Schaefer **
Excited About: Singapore, particularly the Fullerton Bay Hotel and new Marina Bay Sands resort.
Years as Agent: 35.
Other Specialty: Argentina.
Fee: From $100.

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Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

Australia

Catharina Apodac
New Favorite: The $200 million Museum of Old and New Art, in Hobart, Tasmania, has singlehandedly revitalized the city, Apodac says. Its impressive permanent ranges from Egyptian artifacts to contemporary art.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

Cassandra Bookholder
New Favorite: In the Aussie bush, about 60 miles north of Sydney, Bookholder loves the modern glass-and-wood Pretty Beach House hotel. You’ll dine on fresh fish while watching kookaburras at play.
Years as Agent: 5.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

Terry Coffey
Special Booking: For a horse-racing enthusiast, Coffey created a customized tour with seats at key Australian tracks such as Belmont Park, in Perth, and Elwick, in Tasmania.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $200.

Suzy Mercien-Ferol
New Favorite: Mercien-Ferol describes the 20-room Saffire Freycinet, in Tasmania, as a place where travelers seeking both natural beauty and 1,000-thread-count sheets will be happy. Its restaurant has one of the most comprehensive wine lists in the Pacific region.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

French Polynesia

Susanne Hamer
Insider Clout: For a couple looking to have a unique wedding, Hamer arranged an underwater ceremony in the Pacific Ocean. They then enjoyed a private dinner at La Villa Mahana in Bora-Bora.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Fiji.
Fee: From $200.

Mark Hoyer
New Favorite: The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, Hoyer’s go-to hotel for clients. “At night, the open-air restaurant serves some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted.”
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Costa Rica.
Fee: From $125.

Robin Turner
New Favorite: When planning vacations for VIP clients, Turner suggests a stay at Motu Teta, a sophisticated villa complex on a private island just an hour’s boat ride from Rangiroa Airport. The place stands out for its highly personable staff and remote location.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Fiji.
Fee: Varies.

New Zealand

Donna Thomas *
Excited About: Thomas recently developed a nature tour, following Maori sacred paths in the northern Rotorua region; the journey includes a visit to the holy Hinehopu’s Tree.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: From $100.

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Special Interest

Cruises

Claudia Gordon
Insider Clout: For clients on a luxury Mediterranean cruise, Gordon set up a rendezvous with a top Tuscan winemaker who created a special batch of wine for them.
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialty: Space travel.
Fee: Varies.

Scott Kertes +
Excited About: The new Oceania Marina, which takes the cruise dining experience to a new level, according to Kertes. “If you’re a foodie, you won’t be disappointed.”
Years as Agent: 21
Other Specialty: Small-ship cruises.
Fee: None.

Lois Moran
Top Tip: The little-visited port city of Khasab, near Dubai, is almost unchanged from a century ago: You can still spot men hauling in their catch with handmade nets.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Private-jet travel.
Fee: Varies.

Betsy Patton
New Favorite: Patton just returned from a preview of the new Seabourn Quest. What impressed her most? The Winter Garden suites, each with a private, glass-walled solarium.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Celebrations.
Fee: Varies.

Liz Sutton **
Insider Clout: For a small group on a cruise, Sutton arranged for their ship to be greeted by the staff of the hotel Cove Atlantis.
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Family.
Fee: From $150.

Ruth Turpin
Excited About: The growing popularity of river cruises in Southeast Asia, in particular AmaWaterways, with two ships on the Mekong River.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Family.
Fee: Varies.

Ecotourism

Joan Weber +
New Favorite: On a recent trip to Guatemala, Weber loved the six-room Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature Reserve, overlooking Lake Atitlan.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Educational.
Fee: Varies.

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Family

Fontaine Gatti
New Favorite: The Baja cruise with Lindblad Expeditions. Kids come face-to-face with whales, sea turtles, and dolphins.
Years as Agent: 41.
Other Specialty: China.
Fee: $100.

Kathy Hannon
New Favorite: Hotel Madeline, in Telluride, Colorado, for its ski-valet service. Staffers take your family’s skis at check-in and have them waiting for you every morning at the mountain’s base.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Skiing.
Fee: From $50.

Paul Largay *
Excited About: The influx of resorts on Zanzibar—including Baraza, the Matemwe Retreat, and the Zamani Retreat Kempinski—which are helping position the island as a destination for the après-safari set.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $100.

Kay Merrill
New Favorite: Merrill is crazy about the revamped accommodations at Londolozi, in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The spacious Granite suites are ideal for couples with young children.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: $250.

Ana Maria Pickens
Excited About: The just-launched guided cultural tours for children at the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: None.

Kathryn Sudeikis **
Top Tip: For families with small children, head to Beaches Turks & Caicos, an upscale, all-inclusive resort perfect for multigenerational groups. “The kids program is one of the best in the Caribbean.”
Years as Agent: 43.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: From $150.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty **
New Favorite: Rosewood Mayakoba, on the Riviera Maya, offers an amazing kids-only tour through the mangroves. Learn all about local birds, the ecosystem, and ways to preserve the environment.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $150.

Business Travel

Jennifer Wilson Buttigieg
New Favorite: The Villa Cortez at the One&Only Palmilla, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico—a four-bedroom private house with large dining areas that are perfect for meetings.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialties: Meetings, incentive travel.
Fee: From $100.

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Hotels

Manny Beauregard
New Favorite: Beauregard is enthusiastic about the just-opened Leela Palace Kempinksi, in New Delhi. “The hotel’s two-story Espa spa has seven spacious treatment rooms and a private suite overlooking the city.”
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $250.

Bobby Zur
New Favorites: Noctiluca, a seaside estate in Punta Mita, Mexico, available for weekly rentals, and Fiji’s Laucala, where travelers can rent the entire private island.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Southern Africa.
Fee: From $500.

Spas

Karen Benson
Special Booking: Benson planned a spa vacation in India with bespoke and ayurvedic treatments at Oberoi Amarvilas, in Agra, and Amanbagh, near Jaipur.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $200.

Maureen “Mo” Smith
Top Tip: Smith recommends the new Rejuvenating Waters treatment at Canyon Ranch Tucson, a mix of deep-water hydrotherapy and full-body massage.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $100.

Culture/Education

Margery Hunter
New Favorite: Cultural tours that take clients around Rome by Vespa.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Asia.
Fee: From $100.

Paul Niskanen * **
Insider Clout: Niskanen recently set up a meeting in New Delhi with leading academics to discuss Indian politics.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: From $350.

Destination Celebrations

Jack S. Ezon **
Insider Clout: A birthday get-together in Florence included a dinner set around Michelangelo’s David and a private viewing at the Uffizi.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: From $250.

Diane Hilliard
Excited About: The Seychelles. The breadth of nature and growing number of luxury resorts make it a destination to satisfy many agendas.
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: Cultural.
Fee: $750.

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Diving

Gene Lashley
Top Tip: Guests staying at Amanwana, on Moyo Island, can charter the hotel’s 105-foot cruiser Amanikan, with its own dive instructor.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $200.

Food/Wine

Bonnie Brayham
Insider Clout: For a couple’s anniversary in Tuscany, Brayham sourced top vintages from the year they were married and served them at a surprise dinner.
Years as Agent: 3.
Other Specialty: Experiential.
Fee: Varies.

Lynda Turley Garrett
Top Tip: In Hobart, Tasmania, she suggests a visit to the Salamanca market, where more than 300 producers peddle artisanal foods.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: $200.

Gay/Lesbian

David Rubin
Insider Clout: Rubin’s connections open cultural doors: in Cairo, his clients were hosted for dinner by prominent gay (but closeted) Egyptians.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Celebrations.
Fee: From $250.

Golf

Susan Dischner
Top Tip: While China and Japan have blue-chip courses, they’re usually accompanied by hefty greens fees. Malaysia, surprisingly, has more than 200 mostly affordable blue-chip courses.
Years as Agent: 46.
Other Specialty: Luxury cruises.
Fee: From $100.

Jani Miller * **
New Favorite: Guests staying at Marival Residences, on Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, have unlimited access to the area’s two courses, Vista Vallarta and Marina Vallarta.
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Fitness.
Fee: From $100.

Hiking/Walking

Doris White
Excited About: Portugal as a soft-adventure destination. White’s a fan of the Vicentine Coast Natural Park, with easy hiking and biking paths.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialties: Food and wine.
Fee: From $250.

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Honeymoons

Georgia Morgan Johnson
Insider Clout: For a couple with a layover in California, Johnson arranged a last-minute dinner at French Laundry, in Yountville.
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $250.

Peter Lloyd
New Favorites: The First Light villa at Eagle’s Nest, in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and sea views.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Family.
Fee: From $200.

Adventure

Michelle Bemis +
Excited About: Two new trips by Orion Expedition Cruises: one to Borneo, in the South China Sea, and the other to the Kimberly region, in Australia’s northwest.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Group travel.
Fee: Varies.

Betty Jo Currie
Excited About: Since the government is stabilizing, Currie’s hoping Zimbabwe can regain its place as a top African adventure destinations.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $250.

Betsy Donley **
Top Tip: To find the elusive tiger fish, Donley sends her clients to Chiawa Camp, in Zambia. After casting with top guides, guests return for gourmet meals.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $100.

Mollie Fitzgerald
Special Booking: Fitzgerald planned an around-the-world trip that included camping in Antarctica and gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: From $250.

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Photography

Janie Bullard
Insider Clout: Bullard secured a 24-hour private permit for clients to photograph lava flow from Hawaii’s Mount Kilauea.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Custom travel.
Fee: Varies.

Yachts/Villas

Sara Ryan Duffy
Special Booking: Last year, Duffy planned a vacation to the Mediterranean that included a cruise on a 300-foot yacht stocked with 10 pounds of caviar.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Food.
Fee: Varies.

Inside the T+L A-List

Some agents work for agencies owned by or affiliated with American Express, the parent company of this magazine. Fifteen are members of T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board (TAAB); we have noted this in their entries. Nominations: If you know of an agent who should be considered for T+L’s 2012 A-List, send an e-mail with a brief description of the agent’s qualifications, as well as contact information, to tlalist@aexp.com.


Just west of Rome, the small island of Ponza is still untouched by mass tourism and retains an authentic feel. I would stop for a dinner of fresh fish at La Lanterna da Silverio before exploring Ponza’s hidden beaches. For the night, check in to the Villa Laetitia, a restored Art Nouveau bed-and-breakfast designed by Anna Fendi overlooking the harbor. —Andrea Sertoli, Select Italy

In Alaska, drive to Homer, on the Kenai Peninsula, and take a 40-minute boat ride to Katchemak Bay Wilderness Lodge. For lunch, harvest mussels off the beach—the lodge’s chef will steam them for you—and dine on the open-air deck overlooking Katchemak Bay. —Margret Propper, Brownell Travel

For a little-known beach escape, head to Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago of 21 islands off the Brazilian coast. Relax by the crystal-blue water, eat freshly caught fish, and try your hand at “planasubbing,” a favorite activity that involves snorkeling while being towed by a boat at low speed. —Emmanuel Burgio, Blue Parallel

Spend a couple of nights in Buenos Aires, then continue north to the Salta province, known for its rich wines. Cross over to the Atacama Desert and far south to Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile, and explore the glaciers of southern Patagonia. —Maita Barrenechea, Mai10

In Dubai, a stay at the Armani Hotel, where Ambassador suites overlook the Dubai Fountains, and, for dinner, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Dubai’s first Anatolian restaurant. And you won’t want to miss a seaplane tour of the city—the views of the Palms and the World are breathtaking. —Lindsey Wallace, Linara Travel

Start your New Zealand journey at Blanket Bay, a remote lodge outside Queenstown overlooking a glacier lake. From there, make your way to Cape Kidnappers, in Hawke’s Bay, where you can tour the region’s best wineries and meet local Maori people. —Peter Lloyd, Century Travel

A great trip for families is an adventure tour through Churchill, in Canada, with Natural Habitat Adventures. You’ll spot polar bears from a tundra bus, go dog sledding in the forest, and take a helicopter ride over the region. —Paul Largay, Largay Travel


Our specialists waxed enthusiastic about the rehabilitation of Montenegro’s port on the Adriatic. Full docking facilities are part of the development; the arrival of the Amanresort at Sveti Stefan last April sealed the deal.

Bhutan is in the spotlight this year, thanks to relaxed travel restrictions for Americans. There’s also buzz about a second domestic airline, by Tashi, launching this year, and new hotels, including Christina Ong’s 11-room lodge Uma Punakha, in central Bhutan, set to open in April 2012.

Peru’s white-hot culinary scene and sleek new hotels, including Starwood’s Tambo del Inka, in Urubamba, and Orient-Express’s soon-to-open Palacio Nazarenas, in Cuzco, are attracting well-deserved attention to the South American country.

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