10 Things I Learned From Rudi Steele

I’ve always wanted to get to know Rudi Steele, owner and president of Rudi Steele Travel, better; after all, he is pretty much an icon in the luxury travel advisor community. I was fortunate to finally do that, as I interviewed him for this month’s cover story. While you’ll get to know him in depth when you turn to page 65, I thought I’d share 10 choice lessons I learned from him during his recent visit.

1. Don’t grow your company for the sake of growing it. If you can deliver luxury service profitably with the correct group of agents who really know their stuff, do it.

2. Don’t create a formula for luxury; it doesn’t exist. Bespoke means customized, not mass produced.

3. Analyze your client and then analyze them again. Don’t take the easy way out by booking exactly what they’ve asked for. They might not be sure of what they want.

4. Don’t skirt around the money issue. Be clear on how much your client can spend before you start reserving hotel rooms and flights; it will save you all a lot of time and embarrassment.

5. If you trust your staff, then trust your staff. Don’t call them every five minutes while you’re on the road to be sure they’re doing their work. If you have to do that, there may be bigger problems.

6. Be comfortable with the Internet; use it as a tool. Let your client peruse all of the hotel options you’ve selected for them in the comfort of their home, not in front of your computer. When they’ve narrowed down their choices, it’s time for you to step in to do your magic.

7. If your client goes ahead and books direct, he or she wasn’t your client to begin with.

8. Know the general managers and concierges at the top hotels. This will enhance your clients’ experience by at least 100 percent.

9. After you’ve visited many hotels, analyze what you’ve seen so you’ll be able to describe whom that property is for in two sentences. Write down room numbers. Keep good records so you’re a walking encyclopedia of knowledge.

10. Step out of your comfort zone. Sure, luxury hotels are a great product to sell, but outer space awaits, too!

I recently visited Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica; in fact, I’m pictured with Peter Fraser, the resort’s general manager, at left. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this property three times over the past several years and, I have to say, it’s the best it’s ever been. I’ve seen it evolve ever since Peter took over as general manager. It’s obvious he loves being there and that’s one of the reasons for his successful management style, which inspires a relaxed, intuitive high level of service. Plus, he and his team are  always dreaming up new unique guest experiences, whether it’s sleeping in a luxury tent on the beach, or enjoying a private candlelit dinner on the sand, just steps from the water.

What I learned on my most recent visit is that Peter is taking weekly master cooking classes at home. For this reason, it’s not unusual to see him engaged in the culinary practices at Royal Plantation, either helping to grill some fish that the chef caught or serving up a Jamaican specialty at one of the resort’s special themed evenings. Spending time with Peter on this trip, I felt like visiting a gracious old friend who has a very special home (with lots of great amenities!).

While I was at Royal Plantation I visited a nearby “villa” that’s also part of the Royal Plantation family. Rio Chico Private Estate is a six-bedroom home on 14 acres, which is available for takeover. I’ll give you my full report in the next issue of Luxury Travel Advisor, with plenty of photos.

For now, enjoy the issue, and see if there are 10 more things you can learn from Rudi Steele in this month’s cover story.

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