A drive to discover is behind Susan Sparks’ trendsetter status. Her Aspen, CO-based Points of Interest Travel specializes in adventure and active travel to emerging and exotic destinations. For the past two years, she’s been an independent affiliate of Cadence, a Virtuoso member.
“I plan trips for active and adventure travelers, biking and hiking enthusiasts, art and architecture lovers, epicurean travelers and multigenerational family groups,” Sparks tells Luxury Travel Advisor.
Traveling the world with her parents as a child gave Sparks an early taste for adventure. Her mother was an antique collector.
“She taught me to look and examine as we searched for hidden gems and sought out the destination’s story — its culture, art, history, music, cuisine and museums. For me, this translated perfectly into the travel business,” says Sparks.
The key to her success is an understanding of client motivation.
“I take the time to collaborate with and interview each member of the traveling party, becoming a bit of a travel psychologist, discovering what makes an individual, family or group tick. What are their needs and interests? What have been their past nightmares and successes? What, for them, will define a unique and unsurpassed trip?” she notes.
Sometimes, it’s Sparks herself who provides the trip’s “uniqueness.”
Recently, she designed a private bike trip in Vietnam and Laos for four people. One of the couples had originally eloped, foregoing a traditional wedding.
“As a surprise, I arranged for a Lao wedding ceremony during their time in Laos,” says Sparks.
That passion for detail has earned Sparks industry-wide recognition.
“I work hard to break through the goals I set for myself and my business. I have been named one of Travel + Leisure’s A-List agents for many years. I have been quoted in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, and I have achieved Elite status with Cadence, reserved for the top producing agents making $150,000-plus in commission,” Sparks tells Luxury Travel Advisor.
Not surprisingly, Sparks also spends several months each year traveling herself.
She has biked and hiked all over Europe, the U.S., Asia, South America and Oceania.
“It is through these hands-on, heart-in experiences that I am able to recommend extraordinary experiences in hidden corners of the world. My goal is to personally vet the best hotels and travel services worldwide, and I have also spent time handpicking guides,” says Sparks.
After 30 years in the business, she’s adamant it’s important to keep exploring, especially with a clientele interested in undiscovered places.
“I believe it is important to constantly change and grow. Whether it is my website, my branding or my business model, I am always adapting to the needs of my clients and the demands of the industry,” Sparks tells us.
She chronicles personal travels and makes recommendations on her blog. In addition, she sends out weekly travel inspiration in an e-mail marketing piece.
Despite her years of globe-trekking, Sparks is still discovering properties that surprise her. “I recently traveled to Japan and was especially taken aback by The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo. The vibe is stunning and the service is outstanding,” says Sparks.
Living in Colorado, the opportunities abound to enjoy her local surroundings as well. “I love to hike, bike, ski and be in the outdoors of Aspen with my son,” says Sparks.