Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why I Travel: It's Part of My Job

Would you trust a doctor who didn’t constantly study up on the latest techniques and medications to treat illnesses? How about an accountant who didn’t keep up with the ever-changing tax laws? Of course you wouldn’t! Why then would you book your travel through someone who isn't consistently traveling and visiting the places they recommend to you?

This thought crossed my mind multiple times as I recently hotel-hopped through Bangkok, Hanoi and Hong Kong. While I constantly hear from friends, family, clients, Facebook acquaintances and Twitter followers how much they enjoy following my travels via the photos and comments I post along the way, I never lose sight of the real reason I am globe-trotting: It’s my job!

As the owner of a luxury travel agency with a growing roster of clients expecting me to know everything about everywhere, how can I possibly call myself an expert in my field if I am not continually experiencing the world firsthand? This is how I look at every trip I take, including the one I just returned from in Asia.

To be frank, I knew next to nothing about the brand new “SO” brand of hotels being launched by Sofitel, and I had not been to Bangkok in more than 15 years. These were two perfectly good reasons for me to allocate the time needed to properly revisit this city while getting to know this new brand.

From the moment I walked into the So Bangkok Hotel, after traveling nearly 20 hours, I was reminded why it is I’d made the trip. The uber-stylish, funky lobby is exactly the unique and different style of hotel many of my clients look for when traveling. And they rely on me to recommend such properties to them. Had I not visited this hote, I'd have no way of knowing each suite is equipped with high-tech, user-friendly Apple TV system that allows you to Skype, Facebook or Tweet from the couch or your bed to the chic, clever bath amenities and sleek design touches throughout.

The trip also included a few days at a Sofitel sister property, The Metropole in Hanoi. I’ve booked this hotel many times since it’s truly the best luxury property in Hanoi. I also had never been to Vietnam. Throughout my stay I made mental notes about clients I know will love the original, traditional wing of the 110-year-old Metropole versus the newer Opera wing with its sleek Prestige suites and Club Level lounge. While participating in the hotel’s Vietnamese cooking class, I jotted down thoughts on my foodie clients who I know will love the food in Hanoi as much as I did.

After Hanoi, I opted to add on a few days in Hong Kong as a stopover on my Cathay Pacific flight. It seemed silly to fly through Hong Kong—another city I hadn’t visited in 15 years—without spending a night or two. I got the chance to see firsthand why The Landmark Mandarin Oriental is the perfect hotel for many of my clients seeking understated luxury, impeccable service and a terrific Central Hong Kong location.

Despite the threat of a level 8 typhoon, I took full advantage of my 48 hours in Hong Kong and dined at Cafe Grey at The Upper House. I book this fabulous hotel for many clients seeking a hip, stylish ambience and wonderful service. I also indulged myself with a few treatments at the Landmark Mandarin’s spa, and came home much more relaxed than when I left 10 days earlier. I attribute this to the treatments but also because I am out there doing what I love to do.

Simply put, getting out there and experiencing the places in the world that I recommend to anyone trusting me with their travel plans is simply a requirement of my job.

This column is adapted from one appearing in the July 2012 issue of Agent@Home magazine. For more information, contact me via email Stacy@elitetravelinternational.com and follow my travels on Twitter @EliteTravelGal.