|Andrea Ross at Patara Elephant Farm in Chiangmai, Thailand|
Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX), to be held Dec. 9-11 at The Palazzo in Las Vegas, annually attracts some of the world’s top travel advisors. Among them this year will be Andrea Ross, founder and CEO of Journeys Within Inc. and a recipient of Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist award. Andrea and her team specialize in trips to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar that are designed to allow their clients to give back to the community as they travel.
How would you advise up-and-coming agents to identify good opportunities to specialize?
I think the bottom line is to do what you know and love. I lived in Southeast Asia for 10 years, so it just makes sense for me to focus on that region and really give my clients the benefit of my experiences and knowledge. Whether an up-and-coming agent likes Africa, or honeymoons or family travel, it really doesn’t matter as long as they are passionate about it and are able to really bring that specialty to the next level.
You’ve built a name for yourself that essentially is a successful brand positioning. Can you tell us the story of how that came about?
I think it really is about having a great product and then having a great team that delivers that product. For us, we loved Cambodia and Southeast Asia and we wanted travelers to be able to see it the way we saw it as locals living there. Our combination of touring and seeing the highlights but also giving back and being philanthropically based has served us very well. In the past, luxury travel was almost experienced in a bubble, and often the high-end travelers missed the more intimate experiences because they were constantly being given luxury. We genuinely believe that you can have a luxury experience but also see and do more basic and unique experiences. I had a guest once tell me that her favorite day was seeing Angkor Wat in the morning, seeing the life she changed in the afternoon and then spoiling herself in the evening at Raffles with a massage and dinner. The luxury she was enjoying was guilt-free because of the commitment in both money and time she had made to the community.
Do you have an example or story of interest for agents about how working with the right suppliers saved a situation with a client?
Especially working in the developing world things can and do go wrong, whether it’s a delayed flight or
a typhoon or a guest getting sick, there are always going to be bumps in the road, and that’s when your team on the ground becomes your savior. One recent example: We had a lovely family traveling in Vietnam. We had a flight delayed, but instead of leaving the guests at the hotel or airport our director invited them back to her home for dinner and then arranged the transfer after dinner in time for their new flight. The experience was one of their favorites on the trip and definitely beat sitting in an airport for hours!
What do you hope to get out of attending LTX?
I’m interested to hear about upcoming trends in luxury travel and to meet other agents and ground operators. I don’t do a lot of conferences because work is just so busy, but I’m excited to attend LTX and I’m sure I’ll leave feeling inspired!