As we enter 2015, we're taking a look back at the notable people we've profiled in our cover stories over the course of last year.
Richard Beck of Classic Travel
In January we kicked off the year to the theme of "out with the old" in this profile on Richard Beck, founder of Classic Travel Service, Inc. in New York City.
Beck talked his company's emphasis on travel technology, including his innovative strategy to harness OTA business.
“People want options,” said Beck. “That is the whole point. We are both. You can go to a bank and get cash at an ATM, or you can go to the teller. This union will become the tool of the modern travel agency.”
Jim Augerinos of Perfect Honeymoons & Holidays Travel
In February -- just in time for wedding planning season -- we spoke with honeymoon expert Jim Augerinos, president of Perfect Honeymoons & Holidays Travel.
While Augerinos' business is a two-person enterprise, he's posting sales in the neighborhood of $2.5 million per year with top-quality trips of a lifetime.
“I consider myself a boutique Mom-and-Pop,” said Augerinos. “Everyone tells me to expand, but I don’t want to water down the experience. People call us because of our reputation." In this cover story, Augerinos tells us of his favorite places to send clients in search of a most romantic getaway.
Edie Bornstein of Crystal Cruises
In March, we turned our attention to the cruise sector, where we spoke one-on-one with Crystal Cruises president and COO, Edie Bornstein.
At the time, Bornstein had been in her new role since October 2013, and there was plenty else new at the line. Crystal Cruises had just redesigned its two ships, launched a new Wi-Fi policy for repeat customers and enhanced its no-smoking policy.
“My vision is to grow this brand with seven ships for seven seas for seven continents and I think in time we will achieve that,” Bornstein told Luxury Travel Advisor. “It won’t happen overnight but that is my long-term vision for the brand and I believe that thanks to the great efforts of our team we will see that vision come to fruition in time.”
Matthew Upchurch of Virtuoso
In April, we visited for several hours with Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of the luxury consortia, Virtuoso, on one of the biggest issues facing the luxury travel industry: connecting with a changing luxury audience.
“Communicating with the luxury traveler will become increasingly difficult because they are the most sought-after audience," Upchurch said. "We truly have to talk to them in the language that they understand; we have to come at them with different value propositions that appeal to different mindsets.”
Since the time of our last profile of the organization in 2005, Virtuoso had grown from 305 member agencies with 5,200 agents and $3.6 billion in sales to 336 agencies, 8,900 agents and $12.5 billion in luxury travel sales.
Through our conversation with Upchurch, we examined the strategies behind Virtuoso's growth and how the organization is positioning itself for the future.
John Scott of Belmond
What is luxury? John Scott, president and CEO of Belmond, was happy to share his opinions with us during an interview in May that followed several months of transitioning Orient-Express Hotels to the Belmond brand.
“True luxury is about understanding your guests. It’s customization,” said Scott. “Give me what I want. Give me the fruit basket or something that I’ll use. Don’t give me a bottle of wine when I’m staying there on business for one night when you know for certain that bottle’s not going to be touched. I’m not going to drink that by myself. If I’m traveling with my wife, give me the champagne.”
Orient-Express had announced the Belmond rebrand back in February as part of an effort to take the brand to entirely new places, free of the original licensing from French transportation company SNCF.
Mark Hoplamazian of Park Hyatt
The beginning of June put us on the verge of the much-anticipated debut of Park Hyatt New York.
We were the first to tour a model room of the luxury property with Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, immediately before Park Hyatt New York opened as the brand's global flagship. With the stakes high for the Hyatt brand, we talked what advisors could expect from the new hotel.
“Park Hyatt New York really establishes a new standard-bearer for the brand because it’s in a prominent location in a prominent building in arguably the most important travel city in the world,” Hoplamazian said. Read how the global CEO defines the nuances of luxury and tells us how it's the small things that add up to one complete and comprehensive luxury product.
MMGY Global’s 2014 Portrait of Affluent Travelers
Our July issue gave us the exclusive opportunity to take a deep, stat-heavy look at a person near and dear to the hearts of every luxury travel advisor: the affluent traveler.
We sponsored the 2014 Portrait of the Affluent Traveler survey prepared by MMGY Global, who developed a sub-survey of their statistics culled from those who intend to use a travel advisor over the next two years.
The result was a deep dive into the mind of potential luxury clients and gave travel advisors the chance to see what their prospective clients are thinking.
Wendy Burk of Cadence
In August, we flew to sunny La Jolla, California, where the headquarters of Cadence, one of the top producers for Virtuoso, is headquartered.
There we spoke with CEO Wendy Burk on her philosophy of working for her independent contractors of the $100 million travel company.
That effort goes into establishing perks like on-staff "techno-nannines" to help advisors with all of their IT-related needs, and a "human toolbox" independent contractors can draw on to help serve their clients in anything from booking airline tickets to arranging a welcome-home fruit basket.
“We have a support system within our agency that is bar none to serve the independent contractor as if they were the customer,” said Burk.
Maureen Conlin of Los Gatos Travel
September continued the California theme with a look at Silicon Valley-area Los Gatos Travel and its founding partner, Maureen Conlin.
With her lovely agency storefront located just outside of San Jose, Conlin offered valuable insights into dealing with an enclave of loyal, high-end travelers.
“We have multigenerational families, retired professionals, young urban professionals, executives from Silicon Valley companies and venture capitalists. There’s a great amount of new money here in the valley and it takes all shapes and forms,” says Maureen Conlin.
Alex Sharpe of Signature Travel Network
October marked just over a year into Alex Sharpe's time as president and CEO of Signature Travel Network, after the organization had lost long-time leader of 22 years Michelle Morgan following a long battle with cancer.
We caught up with Sharpe and Signature’s executive vice presidents, Ignacio Maza and Karen Yeates, to talk the company's evolution over the pastier.
“There’s a huge void when you lose someone like Michelle. She tied everyone together,” said Sharpe. Read how the orgnaization is ascending, thanks to Morgan's vision and the innovation of its current executives.
Karen Whitt, General Manager of the Year
In November, it was time to recognize the general manager who was voted the best in the business in the Luxury Travel Advisor Awards of Excellence.
In 2014, the honor went to Karen Whitt, general manager of the Regent Palms Turks and Caicos in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.
We spoke with Whitt on engagement -- with her guests, hospitality team and travel advisors.
“It’s critical that you relate to your clients on a personal level and the best way to do that is through their travel advisors,” said Whitt.
Barbara Nichuals of Bayside Travel
2014 drew to a close with a December conversation with Barbara Nichuals, president & CEO of Bayside Travel, where we interviewed her in her prestigious office space in Larchmont, NY.
“I realized there was opportunity here,” Nichuals said of the affluent Westchester community on the Long Island Sound.
Also new at Bayside? The agency had recently been voted "The Best of Westchester" by readers of Westchester Magazine, and the company's recent growth had been changing the way it looked at its client base.
“We’re starting to say, ‘Was that client worth our time?’ Are there clients that we should take another look at and say, ‘We’re not a good fit for each other?’” Nichuals said. “We are seriously on a quest for the affluent luxury client.”