“Private guides and the top suites are de rigueur for Bob Malmberg’s crowd,” is what we wrote about this elegant and talented Boston-based travel advisor in 2008 when we profiled him for our February issue. Case in point: A private luncheon on safari will include the clients’ favorite brand of scotch. Paper napkins have the Malmberg logo embossed on them, as do the beverage glasses provided in the private plane the clients have flown in on. In fact, in 2008, we dubbed Malmberg “The Happy Perfectionist,” and happy he still is, seven years down the road. That is, if happy means your $25 million-plus agency is booming with existing client demand.
“Frankly, we’re so very busy handling the business that we have. As attractive as new clients may be, some of our agents are working overtime just to keep pace,” Malmberg tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “And while complex itinerary requests are always a challenge, they can take much more time to execute than ‘run-of-the-mill’ pre-packaged products.”
For Malmberg, who has just reached his 81st birthday, it’s still all about the details. He and his advisors are booking private yachts, and not just planning the meals but selecting the wines and spirits served on board. On tented safaris, the agency, a member of the Signature Travel Network, arranges for all services to ensure “unforgettable experiences,” a phrase Malmberg does not throw around lightly.
“I point out to the staff that these unforgettable experiences are not just about putting ‘John’ on a camel, or having ‘Alice’ on an elephant to have her picture taken. It’s all about building memories to last a lifetime and we have a very large bag of ‘solutions’ to ensure those memories. Both before and after the actual journey, we see to it that the customer is prepared and has a ‘feeling’ of what to expect...what he’s going to experience.”
Morocco is a destination that has recently enchanted Malmberg personally. “It’s hard to forget,” he tells us. “How it is possible for the doormen at La Mamounia to know my name on the first day of a visit is shocking to me! The property is Morocco; it’s not a duplication of a New York or Los Angeles hotel made-over to now be in Marrakech. La Mamounia is very much like a Hollywood movie set with all the glamour and show and plush that goes with it.”
In fact, he finds the hotel to be at such a high level, he and his agents never send a client there first because the bar will have been set too high for the other hotels on the itinerary. “We always save the ‘best for last,’” Malmberg advises. “Here is where the sequence of the itinerary comes to play an important role in a custom vacation.”
After 55 years in the business, Malmberg says he’s shortening his work day, “just a tad.”
“I’m up at 5 a.m. daily, into the office at 7 a.m. and work until noontime or so; then I have a decent lunch and a free afternoon. I read two newspapers daily along with assorted travel publications trying to just keep abreast of what’s going on.”
And those who know Malmberg well won’t be surprised to learn his love of dogs remains a passion.
"My 'daughter,' Baby Nora, a purebred black and silver Schnauzer who is fluent in not only English but French [Parisian] and Italian [northern], is smarter than I am," says Malmberg. "She tells me when to get up, when to go to bed, what her needs are and what her dislikes are. She is now 13 years old, and she appears with me here on the cover shot of Luxury Travel Advisor. She has me wrapped right around her little front paw!”