What is a Travel Designer?

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Chances are you’ve heard the term “travel designer” and you’re not alone if you’re uncertain as to what it actually means.

In general, the difference between a travel designer and the many other sellers of travel (travel agents, travel advisors, travel consultants, travel concierges) is the deep personal relationship between the professional and the client.

You may fit into this category yourself. How involved are you with your clients? Do you talk to them, even meet with them in between trips? Are you already discussing travels plans for 2-3 years down the road?  When you’re traveling yourself, are you doing specific research for certain clients (taking photos or videos of rooms you’d book for them, menus at restaurants…)?

Here are some of the other qualities you’ll find in this breed of travel professional.

• Travel Designers pride themselves on their distinctive tastes. It is similar to an interior designer who has an eye for certain colors, textures. Travel Designers will often recommend lesser known boutique hotels, even destinations, that don’t necessarily have the instantly recognizable label/brand appeal. Most choose properties based on their own careful and ongoing scrutiny.

• Travel Designers typically work with the upper end of the market, dealing with clients who are looking for comprehensive travel planning and guidance.

• Many Travel Designers manage the entire travel portfolios for their clients. They’ll develop long-term travel plans based on ages of kids, budget, wish list of destinations, etc. The designer’s role in a family’s trip planning is more of a travel lifestyle management figure.

A couple of examples: Currently, our agency is working long term with a father/son preparing them to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. In the two years leading up to this climb, we’re organizing easier hiking trips to get them in shape—both mentally and physically. We’re even arranging for them to be coached by an actual Kili guide who lives in the U.S.

For a family of five, we are designing a 3.5-month-long trip to Central and South America. The objective is to immerse their kids in Latin culture and to experience
local communities, not as tourists, but as temporary residents.

• Most Travel Designers create itineraries from scratch, tailoring very specifically to client’s needs, requests. However, they also advise their clients on the best packaged tours if appropriate.

• Almost all Travel Designers charge travel design/management fees. Some charge
annual fees. In general, fees are tied to complexity and length of trips and the number of travelers.

What’s exciting about being a travel designer is the challenge. Travel Designers are expected to go the extra mile for their clients. Planning unique, personalized trips is why they’re hired, and their creativity, wealth of experience and worldwide connections are put to the test.

Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Westport, CT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.