We wrote about Mary Ann Ramsey’s love for traveling on the edge when we profiled her in our March 2006 edition and nine years later, the president and owner of Betty Maclean Travel in Naples, FL, is still in love with the exotic, including Sub-Saharan Africa. “There is nothing that can be compared to the experiences and life-changing moments one obtains while on safari. Singita Sasakwa in Tanzania remains at the top of my list for the game experiences, the accommodation and the staff,” she tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “On my first visit we met two young cheetah brothers learning to hunt, and I love returning to discover what they are up to now.”
Amanoi in Vietnam is Ramsey’s new favorite resort; she says the discreet and intimate property “provides the highest level of service.”
Celebrity honeymoons are a new focus for the agency. “It’s quite fun, and one avenue where I’m able to put my insider knowledge, expertise and industry connections to ensure these high-profile clients can have incredible experiences with a low profile,” says Ramsey. “Knowing the general managers personally at these destinations is the key to making these celebrity trips go off seamlessly. Without divulging too much, some of the celebrity honeymoons I’ve planned have been on safaris in Africa, in the Maldives and in the Caribbean.” The agency in general is also selling more Cuba; Ramsey included; she’s just returned from the island herself.
Ramsey, who has always been an avid advocate for destination and product education, believes her advisors should travel as their clients do, rather than on familiarization trips, in order to increase their expertise and credibility. She is also a big believer in investing in those clients who understand the true benefits of working with a luxury travel advisor.
An enhanced independent contractor strategy is now an integral part of Betty Maclean Travel's business model, which complements the number of highly seasoned professionals who work in-house at the agency's extremely upscale offices in Naples. Several have impressive tenures; Tina Vincent just celebrated her 30th anniversary and Carol Netzer has been with the company for 18 years.
Another team member is Zahra, a British Labrador Retriever who comes to the office every day. “She greets our clients at the door, escorts them back to my office and then back to the lobby when they leave. Many of our clients are not able to have pets anymore because of where they live and they love the interaction with her,” says Ramsey.
Dedicated to the industry, Ramsey just completed her fourth term on the Virtuoso Member Advisory Board. “They were some of the best 12 years of my career; I enjoyed serving the membership and Virtuoso,” she says.
The current landscape is an ideal one for travel advisors, says Ramsey, who started at Betty Maclean Travel in 1979 and purchased it in full in 1986. “New ships, new resorts and new tours come on line almost every day. Online travel agencies and booking engines are causing mass confusion in the marketplace, which has been a benefit to those travel advisors who are able to assist their clients in making the right decisions.”