On celebrity and travel

Joe Mortimer

It all started with the church. No matter what religion you subscribe to, the earliest celebrities were religious icons. Next came royalty, political figures and other leaders such as Genghis Khan and William the Conqueror; people whose reputations preceded them across the known world. Fast-forward a few centuries and Hollywood and the entertainment business became the primary source of celebrities. But the latest spate of celebrities comes from a less obvious place: the restaurant business. Who would have thought that customers might be interested in the people who make their food as well as the dishes themselves?

Everyone who owns an apron seems to be a celebrity chef these days, but by putting chefs on the same pedestal as the food they create, restaurateurs have created a new level of interaction and trust among their customers. Perhaps the travel business can learn something from that. And perhaps it would be a very good thing indeed.

If travel planners were recognised and rewarded for being the most thoughtful and creative in their business, it might just encourage others to strive to be even better. Wouldn’t that raise the bar across the board in terms of service, creativity and pride in a job well done?

People love to share images of luxury hotels, spectacular landscapes and exotic wildlife online, and tell tales of exclusive travel experiences to friends over dinner, but I wonder how many mention the person behind those experiences – the travel designer who made it all happen? The metaphorical “chef” who combined all the right ingredients, prepared them to perfection and served them in a way that enhanced the entire experience.

You’ll argue that there aren’t enough variables to make one person’s travel experience much different from another. But I’d say that’s nonsense. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. To continue the restaurant analogy and paraphrase Marco Pierre White, the key to being successful in the restaurant business is a lot of little things done to perfection. The same is certainly true of the travel business.

Highly personalised customer service, interaction via social media channels, memorable dining experiences and one-of-a-kind itineraries are just a few of the key ingredients in the recipe for success.

I can’t promise fame and celebrity for a job well done, but I can promise that by putting the customer’s experience first, creating imaginative and thoughtful travel experiences and being with your client both before and after the journey, you will be a celebrity to them; a travel designer who they can trust to make their travel dreams a reality. And in a world where online bookings and last-minute deals are the dish du jour, that might just count for something.

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