A-List: World's Top Travel Agents 2012

A-List: World's Top Travel Agents 2012

Cliff Mills

<p>Cliff Mills</p>

Cliff Mills

Travel planning grows more complicated every year—which is why the advice of an expert can make all the difference.

In an era of DIY vacations, travelers have more tools—online travel agencies, review sites, booking apps—at their fingertips than ever before. But when it comes to expert advice about a destination and customization, you can’t beat a good agent.

“Today’s agents provide insider access, learn and understand your desires and personality, and are there for you 24/7, before, during, and after your trip,” says Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president and co-owner of Valerie Wilson Travel.

To stay competitive in the age of TripAdvisor, agents like Wetty are trying to appeal to a younger, more tech-savvy clientele by offering what no online service can replicate: personalization. Your agent can offer options (coveted dinner reservations; last-minute romantic surprises) and handle potential mishaps (a missed flight; a dank hotel room; a hurricane; a medical emergency)—services that are well worth the planning fees, which generally range from $75 to $500, and are sometimes already built into the trip cost.

And the advocacy on your behalf doesn’t stop there: the best agents know their beats. Whether it’s South America or culinary travel, they’re already out there, scouting that emerging destination, testing the beds in a new hotel, or vetting a local outfitter.

“More small agencies are homing in on a niche,” says Brian Tan, founder and CEO of Zicasso, a service that connects people with travel advisers.

An agent’s knowledge of a destination translates into quality control and insider experiences you couldn’t arrange on your own. Chicago resident Lindsay Everest was glad she handed over the planning reins to Jet Set World Travel’s Julia P. Douglas for her honeymoon in the Maldives. “Knowing that my husband loves food and wine, Julia arranged for a private, nine-course dinner in an underground wine cellar at Soneva Gili,” says Everest, who is working with Douglas again on an upcoming trip to Bermuda.

This kind of access to special perks—ranging from deeply discounted airline seats to room upgrades—is the result of longstanding industry relationships and memberships in invitation-only travel-agent consortia and cooperatives such as Virtuoso and Signature Travel Network, which are affiliated with hundreds of hotels, airlines, and other hospitality groups.

While the benefits of getting professional advice for your trip are clear, wading through hundreds of specialists and companies can be daunting. To help you find the travel adviser who is right for you, we’ve broken out our list by areas of expertise and outlined a few key questions to ask before you book your next trip.

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

Meet the Super-Agents

These 12 power brokers are the most informed and well connected in the travel industry.

Priscilla Alexander **
Known For: Handpicking the ideal agent for each client and promoting a collaborative environment in which her employees share resources and ideas to stay up-to-date on travel trends and news.
Trend Watch: “We’ve seen more demand for guided trips to Burma,” Alexander reports, “and several high-end properties are in development.”
Fee: Varies.

Maita Barrenechea
Known For: Helping to cultivate travel to Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. When Argentina had very little travel infrastructure, Barrenechea met with ranchers and encouraged them to convert their estancias into luxury hotels, now common throughout the countryside.
Trend Watch: Mendoza’s Uco Valley, a wine region in north-central Argentina. “The area has everything from architecture and art to golf and polo,” she says.
Fee: Varies.

Barbara Gallay **
Known For: An industry veteran of more than 41 years who sits on close to a dozen travel-advisory boards, Gallay is a household name to hotel owners and travel suppliers throughout the world. She can get upgrades at the most sought-after properties, secure spots on popular excursions, and book top guides in situations where few can.
Trend Watch: Sri Lanka is back on travelers’ radars thanks to new hotels (Shangri-La and Six Senses are building here) and culture-rich locations.
Fee: Varies.

Lisa Lindblad
Known For: Unearthing a destination’s substance, which she attributes in large part to her background in anthropology. Her intimate approach leads travelers to unusual places and, more important, extraordinary people.
Trend Watch: Western Japan, particularly Kanazawa—one of the most diverse regions in the country for artisanship and crafts.
Fee: Varies.

Mary Ann Ramsey **
Known For: Her firsthand knowledge of a destination. She personally road tests every aspect of a trip, from tour operators and guides to hotels and restaurants. Ramsey tracks down the newest of the new—but also uncovers the authentic gems. “I like to be sure the places are the right fit for my clients,” she says.
Trend Watch: East Africa, particularly Tanzania, where she loves the Singita properties.
Fee: Varies.

Guy Rubin *
Known For: It’s hard to speak to any travel agent about China without hearing Rubin’s name. His go-to list of veteran guides, restaurant owners, and hotel managers gives him unparalleled access: a table-tennis match against an Olympic gold medalist; a curator-led tour of the ink paintings at a private gallery in Beijing.
Trend Watch: Currently less than 1 percent of upscale American travelers visit China, which Rubin believes will soon change. “The luxury market is booming,” he says.
Fee: $200.

Anne Morgan Scully **
Known For: Homing in on her clients’ wants and goals, and understanding how those preferences evolve as their lives change. She also recognizes that personal touches often make the biggest impressions. “One family I work with loves to have game nights on the road, so we stocked their hotel rooms with board games,” she says.
Trend Watch: River cruises are increasingly popular, so companies such as Viking River Cruises are adding new vessels this year.
Fee: Varies.

Pallavi Shah *
Known For: Her passion for and expertise in India, Italy, and Turkey, and for making her clients feel invested in planning their trips. “We involve them in every decision and detail,” she says. Shah even offers reading suggestions to foster a connection to a destination.
Trend Watch: “The idea of a small hotel used to be nonexistent in India,” Shah says, “but now boutique properties are cropping up all over the country (the Raas, in Jodhpur, and the Serai, in Jaisalmer, are two).”
Fee: $550.

Jim Strong ** & Nancy Strong
Known For: Accessibility and discerning taste. Their trips perfectly balance the classic and timeless with the new and cutting edge. Jim, who is also the author of Craving for Travel, often goes on scouting trips to vet up-and-coming locations, hotels, cruises, and more.
Trend Watch: Food-focused excursions. “Travelers are planning their trips around lunch and dinner, and we work very hard to ensure their experiences are consistently good,” he says.
Years as Agents: 34 and 38.
Fee: $250.

Valerie Ann Wilson
Known For: Her 30 years of experience in the industry. Wilson’s influence is felt in big ways (she sits on nine travel-advisory boards) and small—she doesn’t hesitate to give criticism to a hotel general manager; more often than not, he takes her advice.
Trend Watch: Wilson is thrilled to see top-to-bottom renovations at some renowned Caribbean properties, including La Samanna, in St. Martin.
Fee: From $200.

Joel A. Zack *
Known For: In-depth itineraries offering access to the authentic in his areas of specialty: southern Africa, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. His network of guides and contacts allows him to create one-of-a-kind experiences (a private meeting with famous anti-apartheid leaders; a visit to a little-known antiques dealer).
Trend Watch: Increased travel to Marrakesh and Fez, where hotels—Riad Joya is a new favorite—are opening almost monthly.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Europe

 

Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, & Slovakia

Nathalie Nagy *
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Mexico.
Fee: From $150.

France

Murielle Blanchard +
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $200.
Contact: Black Pearl Luxury Services, Salt Lake City; 801/483-6533; murielle@blackpearlservices.com.

Craig Loupassakis
Years as Agent: 48.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $150.

Bob Preston +
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $250.
Contact: EuroPanache, Paris; 888/600-6777; bob.preston@europanache.com; Twitter: @europanache.

Germany

Elisabeth Landry
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $200.

Greece

Mina Agnos
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Egypt.
Fee: $250.

Kelly Shea
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $250.

Christos Stergiou
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $100 per person.

Petros Zissimos + *
Years as Agent: 9.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: From $300.
Contact: Hellenic Holidays, New York City; 212/944-8288; pzissimos@hellenicholidays.com; Twitter: @hellenichldys.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Ireland

 

Carol Cornell
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $100.

Italy

Margot Cushing
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: The Mediterranean.
Fee: from $300.

Joyce Falcone *
Years as Agent: 16.
Fee: $500.

Emily FitzRoy *
Years as Agent: 15.
Fee: None.
Contact: Bellini Travel, London; 44-20/7602-7602; emily@bellinitravel.com.

Andrea Grisdale
Years as Agent: 22.
Fee: $185.

Deborah Hyte
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Western Europe.
Fee: From $400.

Colleen Lamont +
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Small-ship cruising.
Fee: From $200.
Contact: Journeys Peak Travel, Portland, Ore.; 866/297-1058; clamont@peaktravel.com.

Judy Nussbaum
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialty: France.
Fee: From $100.

Andrea Sertoli *
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Croatia.
Fee: From $100.

Marjorie Shaw
Years as Agent: 23.
Other Specialty: Family travel.
Fee: From $400.

Sally Watkins
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee:From $375.

Russia

Greg Tepper *
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Eastern Europe.
Fee: $200.

Scandinavia

Carol Arklind
Years as Agent: 23.
Other Specialty: United Kingdom.
Fee: From $200.

Tor Jensen
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Southeast Asia.
Fee: from $200.

Scotland

Claire Schoeder
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: England.
Fee: $200.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Spain

 

Virginia Irurita
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialty: Food and wine.
Fee: From $265.

Edward Phillips **
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: $300.

Judith Wolf
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: The Mediterranean.
Fee:from $200.

Switzerland

Ilene Koenig
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Skiing.
Fee: From $175.

Turkey

Frederick Poe *
Years as Agent: 52.
Other Specialty: Eastern Europe.
Fee: $150.

United Kingdom

Ellen LeCompte
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Family travel.
Fee: $300.

Tammi R. Van Volkinburgh
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: South Africa.
Fee: From $500.

Susie Worthy
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: France.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

U.S. + Canada

 

Alaska

Margret Propper
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: Small-ship cruising.
Fee: From $100.

Hawaii

Carolyne Brandon
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: Varies.

Darlene Mulkewich
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Alaska.
Fee: Varies.

New Orleans

Linda Kibak
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Switzerland.
Fee: Varies.

New York

Amy Glass
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Costa Rica.
Fee: Varies.

Western U.S.

Harold Jenkins
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Skiing.
Fee: Varies.

Deborah Trevino
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: From $150.

Canada

Yaron Yarimi
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $200.

Caribbean

Margie Hand
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Destination weddings.
Fee:Varies.

Janet McLaughlin
Years as Agent: 23.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $150.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Mexico + Central + South America

 

Brazil

Martin Frankenberg +
Years as Agent: 12.
Fee: From $350.

Paul Irvine + *
Years as Agent: 9.
Other Specialty: Argentina.
Fee: None.
Contact: Dehouche, Rio de Janeiro; 800/690-6899; paul.irvine@dehouche.com; Twitter: @dehouche.

Chile

Silja Torborg
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: None.

Costa Rica

Rachael Bockoven Colbert *
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: None.

Ecuador

Tatiana Johnston *
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Peru.
Fee: None.

Galápagos

Brian Morgan *
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Peru.
Fee: Varies.

Mexico

Zachary Rabinor +
Years as Agent: 9.
Other Specialty: Guatemala.
Fee: Varies.

Peru

Marisol Mosquera *
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Bolivia.
Fee: $250.

South America

Emmanuel Burgio *
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Serviced villas.
Fee: Varies.

Carlos Fida *
Years as Agent: 15.
Fee: $250.

Jerry Greenberg
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: Italian lakes.
Fee: $200.

Beth Jenkins +
Years as Agent: 3.
Other Specialty: Young-adult adventure.
Fee: From $100.
Contact: McCabe World Travel, McLean, Va.; 800/747-8401; beth@mccabeworld.com; Twitter: @bethvoyage.

Eric Sheets *
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Cuba.
Fee: From $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Africa + the Middle East

 

Africa

Bob Berghaier *
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Wildlife tours.
Fee: Varies.

Cherri Briggs +
Years as Agent: 19.
Fee: None.
Contact: Explore, Steamboat Springs, Colo.; 970/871-0065; info@exploreafrica.net.

Katie Cadar
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: French Polynesia.
Fee: $100 per person.

Sandy Cunningham *
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: New Mexico.
Fee: None.

Jeanie Fundora *
Years as Agent: 13.
Fee: None.

Phoebe B. Weinberg
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: Varies.

Dana Welch
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: Varies.

Egypt

Malaka Hilton *
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Jordan.
Fee: From $250.

Israel

Rachel Epstein *
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Spain.
Fee: Varies.

Morocco

Michael Diamond *
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Safaris

 

Volker Altvater + *
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: South Africa.
Fee: None.
Contact: Big Five Tours & Expeditions, Stuart, Fla.; 800/244-3483; volker@bigfive.com; Twitter: @bigfivetours.

Tim Lapage + *
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialty: Ecuador.
Fee: $250.
Contact: Safari Experts, Park City, Utah; 435/649-4655; safari@safariexperts.com; Twitter: @safariexpert.

Mark Nolting *
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Multigenerational safaris.
Fee: None.

Norman Pieters *
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: $250.

Jackie Rush +
Years as Agent: 36.
Other Specialty: Jordan.
Fee: From $50.
Contact: Frosch Travel, Washington, D.C.; 800/296-0071; jackie.rush@frosch.com.

Southern Africa

Craig Beal *
Years as Agent: 7.
Fee: None.

Julian Harrison *
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: East and central Africa.
Fee: Varies.

Judy Udwin *
Years as Agent: 30.
Fee: From $300.

United Arab Emirates

Lindsey Wallace
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Indian Ocean islands.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Asia

 

Asia

Diane E. Hilliard
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: South Pacific.
Fee: $750.

Janet Moore *
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Middle East.
Fee: Varies.

Patrick O’Connell + *
Years as Agent: 13.
Fee: None.
Contact: Asia Transpacific Journeys, Boulder, Colo.; 800/642-2742; pat@atj.com.

Darlene Ravin
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $100.

Bali, Indonesia

Diane Embree
Years as Agent: 36.
Other Specialty: General Indonesia.
Fee: Varies.

Jarrod Hobson +
Years as Agent: 17.
Fee: None.
Contact: Asia Transpacific Journeys, Boulder, Colo.; 800/642-2742; jarrod@atj.com.

Burma

Rebecca Mazzaro
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: None.

China

Karin Hansen
Years as Agent: 35.
Other Specialty: Thailand.
Fee: From $200.

Mei Zhang *
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Taiwan.
Fee: $400.

Hong Kong

Laura Woo
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

India/Sri lanka

 

Jonny Bealby
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Pakistan.
Fee: Varies.

Carole Ann Cambata
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialty: Maldives.
Fee: None.

Ellison Poe
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: East Africa.
Fee: From $150.

Ashish Sanghrajka *
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Kenya.
Fee: $500.

Bob Watson
Years as Agent: 27.
Fee: $500.

Japan

Noriko Townsend *
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: China.
Fee: $150.

Duff Trimble *
Years as Agent: 11.
Fee: Varies.

Southeast Asia

Catherine Heald * +
Years as Agent: 7.
Fee: Varies.
Contact: Remote Lands, New York City; 646/415-8092; catherine@remotelands.com.

Sandee Litwin
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: $150.

Andrea Ross + *
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Indonesia.
Fee: Varies.
Contact: Journeys Within, Truckee, Calif.; 877/454-3672; andrea@journeys-within.com; Twitter: @andreaross.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Australia, New Zealand + the South Pacific

 

Australia

Catharina Apodac
Years as Agent: 23.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

Cassandra Bookholder
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

Terry Coffey
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $200.

Suzy Mercien-Ferol
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: $150.

New Zealand

Jean-Michel Jefferson +
Years as Agent: 10.
Fee: Varies.
Contact: Ahipara Luxury Travel, Central Otago, New Zealand; 64-3/447-3558; jean-michel@ahipara.com.

Donna Thomas *
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: None.

South Pacific

Susanne Hamer
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Maldives.
Fee: $200.

Georgia Morgan Johnson-Kicklighter
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: $250.

Robin Turner
Years as Agent: 25-plus.
Other Specialty: Maldives.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Special Interest

 

Cruising

Claudia A. Gordon
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Space travel.
Fee: Varies.

Scott Kertes
Years as Agent: 23.
Other Specialty: Group travel.
Fee: Varies.

Lois Moran
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: Private jets.
Fee: Varies.

Paul Niskanen **
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: Safaris.
Fee: $350.

Betsy Patton
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Celebrations.
Fee: Varies.

Marcella Rappoport +
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Private jets.
Fee: Varies.
Contact: Ovation Travel, New York City; 212/329-7260; mrappoport@ovationtravel.com.

Steven E. Shulem +
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Luxury hotels.
Fee: None.
Contact: Strictly Vacations, Santa Barbara, Calif.; 800/447-2364; steve@strictlyvacations.com.

Liz Sadie Sutton **
Years as Agent: 35.
Other Specialty: Family.
Fee: From $150.

Ruth Turpin
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: River cruises.
Fee: Varies.

EcoTourism

Joan Weber
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Family Travel

 

Julia P. Douglas + *
Years as Agent: 7.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: From $250.
Contact: Jet Set World Travel, Chicago; 773/404-2491; julia@jetsetworldtravel.com.

Jessica Griscavage +
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Romantic travel.
Fee: Varies.
Contact: McCabe World Travel, McLean, Va.; 703/762-5056; jessica@mccabeworld.com.

Paul J. Largay
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: $100.

Kay Merrill
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $250.

Ana Maria Pickens
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: None.

Kathryn Sudeikis **
Years as Agent: 43.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: Varies.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty **
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $150.

Business Travel

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Multigenerational travel.
Fee: From $100.

Hotels

Manny Beauregard
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: Small-ship cruising.
Fee: $250.

Bobby Zur
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Southern Africa.
Fee: From $500.

Spas/Wellness

Karen Benson
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $250.

Maureen “Mo” Smith
Years as Agent: 35.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $100.

Culture/Education

Margery Hunter
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $75.

Destination Celebrations

John Clifford
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Gay travel.
Fee: Varies.
Twitter:@LuxTravel
Contact: International Travel Management, San Diego; 619/299-2359; john@internationaltravelmanagement.com.

Jack S. Ezon *
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: Varies.

Diving

Gene Lashley
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: $200.

Food and Wine

Lynda Turley Garrett
Years as Agent: 32.
Other specialties Australia, New Zealand.
Fee: $200.

Bonnie Brayham Herman
Years as Agent: 4.
Other Specialty: Experiential travel.
Fee: Varies.

Gay Travel

David Rubin
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Celebrations.
Fee: From $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2012
+ New to List

 

Golf

 

Susan A. Dischner
Years as Agent: 46.
Other Specialty: Luxury cruises.
Fee: $100.

Jani Miller **
Years as Agent: 35.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $100.

Hiking/Walking

Doris White
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: $250.

Honeymoons

Peter Lloyd
Years as Agent: 23.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $200.

Adventure

Michelle Bemis
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: River and ocean cruises.
Fee: Varies.

Betty Jo Currie
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $250.

Betsy Donley **
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Multigenerational travel.
Fee: From $250.

Mollie Fitzgerald
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Multigenerational travel.
Fee: From $250.

Photography

Janie Bullard
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: Varies.

Air Travel

Michael Holtz +
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: Asia.
Fee: Varies.
Contact: SmartFlyer, New York City; 212/268-9088; michael@smartflyer.com; Twitter: @mrsmartflyer.

Private Jet Travel

David Lowy + **
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Ultra-luxe travel.
Fee: Varies.
Contact: Renshaw Travel, Vancouver; 604/733-1010; dlowy@renshawtravel.com.

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 2013 A-List, send an e-mail with a brief description of the agent’s qualifications, as well as contact information, to tlalist@aexp.com.

 

While the line between agents and tour operators can be hard to distinguish, the differences will impact the way your trip is planned. T+L breaks it down.

 

Travel Agent

Definition: An adviser who traditionally books all aspects of your trip, including transportation, hotels, and tour operators. Increasingly, agents are specializing—in adventure travel, say, or in trips to Southeast Asia.

Chain of Command: Most work for an agency that may also belong to a cooperative such as Virtuoso, Signature, Ensemble, or American Express (T+L’s parent company).

Service Fee: Typically $75-$500 for travel agents and tour operators. Sometimes the fee is covered by a hotel or an operator, depending on a number of factors, including the agency’s or operator’s agreement with the hotel or outfitter, the destination, and the scope of the trip.

Tour Operator

Definition: A destination specialist who acts as a management company, using on-the-ground contacts to create trips for travel agents and, increasingly, independent travelers. They usually don’t handle airline tickets or other bookings outside their areas of expertise.

Chain of Command: The majority are independently owned and build relationships with local contacts such as hotels and guides, as well as travel agents and consortia.

 

Don’t be afraid to raise hard questions to gauge your adviser’s expertise (and test your chemistry).

 

• How familiar are you with the destination I’m interested in? When was the last time you were there, and have you stayed in the properties you are recommending?

• Is my budget realistic for the destination I want to visit and for the type of trip I want to go on?

• What added value will I get by working with you instead of planning the vacation on my own?

• Are you a member of a travel consortium, and if so, how does that add to my experience?

• How long have you been in the industry, and what do you consider your professional strengths?

• Would you be willing to provide some references?

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