When Julia Douglas created Chicago-based Jet Set World Travel in 2005, she had truly taken a giant leap into the travel industry. “I didn’t have a mortgage, I didn’t have a car, I wasn’t married, and I didn’t have a kid,” Douglas told Luxury Travel Advisor when she graced our March 2010 cover. However, she said there was plenty of encouragement around her and people to bounce ideas off of (Both her parents, as well as her future husband’s parents, were entrepreneurs).
When Douglas made the switch to travel from working in insurance at Lloyd’s of London, she wanted to launch a consultancy that morphed the travel and concierge concepts. Within four years, the company had become an industry powerhouse with Douglas and her best friend, Lauren Maggard at the helm. Then in 2009 two independent contractors joined the Jet Set team; Monika Weinsoft of Portland, OR, and Jill Taylor of Little Rock, AR.
“We take a creative approach and really listen to our clients — we want to get to know [clients’] personal tastes,” Maggard says. “It’s the same way interior designers go about their job.”
Jet Set World Travel now has nine team members, and continues to grow. Annual revenue, which weighed in at $3.8 million in 2009, has grown steadily from 15 percent to 25 percent a year, even as the dynamics of what the agency was booking changed.
“Our clientele have also shifted from honeymooners, to baby-mooners, and now multi-gen family travel,” Douglas tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “Essentially, we are all growing up together and successfully [selling] to every life stage.”
An exciting new development is that Douglas launched the new Axus Travel Application last November in response to a trend toward mobile efficiency, as well as becoming more environmentally responsible. Jet Set also moved from Virtuoso to Signature Travel Network in June 2013.
“Specialization has always been a focus, but has recently become an absolute priority,” she tells us. “Jet Set has encouraged [and financially sponsored] our travel advisors developing ‘masters’ in a destination. The result is a highly personalized itinerary for our clients, and naturally glowing reviews and qualified referrals!”
Douglas just recently booked a trip for a client whose lifelong dream had been to visit Africa. She designed an itinerary that included accommodations at Vumbura Plains in Botswana, the penthouse at One&Only Cape Town, a private villa at Grootbos, a stay at the Singita Mara River Tented Camp, and the estates at Maia in the Seychelles.
In her personal travels, Douglas’ favorite destinations are still Botswana, Bhutan and Fiji. However, she was recently impressed with Soho House Chicago.
“With daily fitness classes involving a vintage boxing ring, a rooftop pool and lounge, full-size Cowshed bath amenities, a charging station for devices, and even a beautiful tea set with a carafe of refrigerated milk and a colorful assortment of Nespresso pods, I quickly felt that this was my [dream] ‘house,’” she tells Luxury Travel Advisor.