At Bear & Bear Travel, Laurie Santorelli specializes in luxury travel for families with children, crafting highly personalized experiences that appeal to everyone on the trip and yet remain true to the culture of the area being visited.
She tells us her work harkens back to her own childhood, when she traveled both domestically and internationally with her family, and her parents encouraged her to develop an understanding of the cultures they visited by attending unique local events, such as bullfighting, soccer games, tennis tournaments, and baseball and football games. Today, Santorelli has a family of her own, and she says that it is equally important to her that her son understands, experiences and learns the way other people live around the world.
Santorelli decided to pursue her passion with a career in travel shortly after September 11, 2001, when she left her job in sales in New York City’s Garment Center. Even though she describes it as the worst time to jump into the travel industry, she was determined to break into the business. She started as a travel consultant at ABC Tours, a membership travel club in New Jersey, where she earned top salesperson accolades year after year and ascended to the rank of manager of the entire sales department. After 10 years, she moved into the luxury market by joining Bear & Bear in Manhattan. Santorelli is now enjoying her fourth year at the agency, where she brings in $5 million in annual revenue.
“Being a trendsetter is anticipating the needs of the luxury traveler and knowing what type of trip or experience the clients are looking for after the initial conversation,” says agency owner, Jody Bear. “It’s also being able to talk about each destination extensively and with genuine conviction, being able to think outside of the box and being able to give the client a comfort level, no matter what their temperament is. Laurie is able to know which hotelier, DMC or tour operator is the right fit for each trip; she knows that the clients need as many details as is humanly possible, and as quickly as possible, and she also knows that the traveler does not want to hear the word ‘no.’ Laurie will go to great lengths to customize the perfect trip before closing the deal. To me, these are all the ingredients of a talented travel trendsetter.”
Looking ahead, Santorelli says she plans to continue traveling to familiarize herself with new destinations and stay up-to-date on ever-changing major cities; she’ll also continue to focus on family travel. “More and more of our clients are families with children around the same age as mine, so I’m able to draw from my own experiences to determine what would be the most fun, interesting and interactive activities for them,” says Santorelli. “The key is to find a balance between touring and allowing enough time and opportunity for families to reconnect.”
For her part, Santorelli says her strength is in her leadership skills and competitive personality, which have driven her to work hard, be persistent and never give up. “I prioritize my tasks and tend to work on the most difficult issues first and I’m never too proud to ask for help, especially when learning from the best. And, I feel I’m able to organically communicate with my clientele which allows them to trust me and further develop our relationship,” she says.