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What does it take to be an innovative Travel Designer that stands out from the rest?


Creativity, flexibility, extensive knowledge of the world, research, communication and organizational skills. With diverse abilities and innovative mentalities, Travel Designers have proven to be essential professionals, especially in the independent luxury travel market where the search for exclusivity is fundamental. With the world evolving rapidly, new digital tools emerging and people increasingly prioritizing unique, experiential journeys, Travel Designers must regularly adapt to changes and invest in the assets that make their work irreplaceable.

Among them are the ability to build a solid network of local partners, listen, interpret and translate the desires of customers, transforming them into memorable experiences. According to Seema Kapur, Head of Latin America Travel Design at Jacada Travel, “building a huge foundation of trust with the client to learn all about them and their travel companion(s)” is crucial to standing out from the rest.

Travel Designer Nancy Towns of Trufflepig Travel also reminds us of the importance of making room for the charm of the unforeseen and last-minute discoveries. Although this is a planning job, Nancy says thoughtful travel advisors should allow “a trip to be a living thing once it hits the road by providing the context and breathing space for a visitor to make some decisions and follow whims along the way.”

This is certainly not a job you learn in school and turning travelers’ wishes into detailed itineraries is not for everyone. We asked REMOTE’s Travel Designer partners what it takes to be an innovative Travel Designer that stands out from the rest today and what have been some of the biggest challenges in their careers.

Watch Kirsten Gardner’s REMOTE Seeds talk “The Advisor’s Role in Supporting Responsible Travel” from Cafayate 2022

 

Johan van Rijswijck

(Founder of Sapa Pana Travel)

innovative Travel Designer
Johan van Rijswijck
REMOTE: What does it take to be an innovative Travel Designer that stands out from the rest?

Johan: First of all, you need to have a profound first-hand knowledge of the destinations you are offering and keep yourself constantly updated. Therefore, a strong local network is a necessity. Together with your local partners, you have to go that extra mile to exceed your clients’ expectations. 

REMOTE: What are the major challenges today?

Johan: In our case it is to manage our growth. We have to remain self-critic. Our goal is to let our clients enjoy Latin America as much as we do ourselves and, therefore, everything we do has to be in line with this mission.

 

Nancy Towns

(Planner at Trufflepig Travel)

Nancy Towns
REMOTE: What does it take to be an innovative Travel Designer that stands out from the rest?

Nancy: Allowing a trip to be a living thing once it hits the road by providing the context and breathing space for a visitor to make some decisions and follow whims along the way. And also by burying treasures along the map of an itinerary that the visitor doesn’t expect. Once in a while, when it comes to describing the ‘planned’ part of the experience of travel, saying less in the itinerary can mean so much more at the moment. Finding the right balance of these things of course is important and can vary greatly depending on the person and place you are planning for. 

REMOTE: What are the major challenges today?

Nancy: Navigating unexpected and uncontrollable factors during the planning process or the duration of a trip (flight changes/cancellations, political and social unrest along with the media’s coverage of those things, traveler anxiety!). Strong partnerships and collaborations in region/destination were always a part of the foundation for building and running unique trips. It’s even more apparent now how essential these relationships are for also providing current, on-the-ground perspective. 

 

Megan Habig

(Owner at Restless Mind Travel)

innovative Travel Designer
Megan Habig
REMOTE: What does it take to be an innovative Travel Designer that stands out from the rest?

Megan: The ability to pivot. Certainly not an entirely ‘innovative’ concept, but being able to redirect Clients, either in their initial planning or while on the ground, if necessary, is key! While some Clients are dead set on a specific destination, more often than not, they are open to alternate opportunities stemming from industry knowledge and great partners on the ground – events like Remote are integral to that learning and the relationships! With a lot of Clients on the east coast and in the midwest, Costa Rica has been a great alternative to those originally mentioning Hawaii. It’s about understanding the vision for a Client’s trip and reacting to that (how they want to feel, what sort of experiences they want to have…) rather than just where they initially say they want to go.

REMOTE: What are the major challenges today?

Megan: Travel has bounced back in a big way and while that’s fabulous for the bottom line, it has created a tough strain on supply and demand when it comes to destination hotspots – trips that Clients used to be able to take for X and plan 3 months in advance, are now requiring a budget of Y and planning at least 6 months out. Managing expectations, while always important, has been imperative! It has also caused Advisors to have to be more tactical around working with Clients and truly understanding capacity for themselves and their business. While an influx in bookings can be great, if it impacts the service and Client experience, no one wins!

 

Seema Kapur

(Head of Latin America Travel Design at Jacada Travel)

innovative Travel Designer
Seema Kapur
REMOTE: What does it take to be an innovative Travel Designer that stands out from the rest?

Seema: Building a huge foundation of trust with the client to learn all about them and their travel companion/s – who are they, what do they do in their free time, what do they want out of this trip, what do they like about traveling to a new destination, what don’t they like, etc. rather than order taking what the client thinks they want, by delving deep and finding out who are these clients the TD can suggest and create a special trip truly personal to the guests by offering areas/product the guests may not have necessarily have asked us about – this is what it takes to be innovative and give lasting unique memories.

REMOTE: What are the major challenges today?

Seema: Challenges range from client to client, but I would say the biggest one is building a trip for someone before they truly understand the value of what we offer at Jacada – it is important early on in the process to have a call and find out if we are the right fit for them for this trip and vice versa. Once a client can understand, see, feel the value of what we offer they are less likely to be price driven as they focus on experience-led travel. 

 


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