Behind the scenes at LuxuryBARED: An interview with Claire Parsons, Executive Director – Global Relationships
Meet Claire Parsons, who spends her days making other people’s dreams a reality (and occasionally her own). A trip for two to celebrate a 30th wedding anniversary in the Maldives; a family gathering in South Africa’s stunning Leobo resort; a honeymoon in Paris; a holiday in Barbados and St Barths – Claire’s been organising happiness for others around the globe for over 27 years. At LuxuryBARED she heads up LB|Private, which specialises in booking bespoke itineraries for PLATINUM members… Here’s what she has to say about how to get the most out of LuxuryBARED’s host of value-added travel offerings.
In brief, tell us what LuxuryBARED offers that other travel booking sites don’t?
Many exciting travel-related things travellers out there really need to discover! In a nutshell, tell-it-like-it-is unbiased reviews undertaken and penned by renowned and highly experienced travel professionals, people who have passionately worked in the luxury travel business for over fifteen years, some for longer.
We also offer great value deals at our preferred hotels via our website or through our travel consultants themselves. So anyone who signs into the site can book a stay at many of the world’s best hotels and, in doing so, get the best rate out there at the time.
Better yet, they’ll also get many added exclusive booking amenities, including complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out provisions, as well as vouchers to use for spa treatments or food and drinks.
There are other things, too, which frequent visitors to the site will get to know, like bonafide opinions and mini-reviews which come from our global community of members out there in an effort to help other luxury travellers make all the right choices.
Bad decisions have been made using advice from other review websites where people post their experiences. What makes your reviews credible and reliable?
Reviews on travel advisory sites are unreliable at the best of times, mostly because human nature is such that when things go wrong, we complain. Airing a grievance is what we do best. On the other hand, when they go well, we smile and move on. The outcome, therefore, on such platforms, is a skewed view of reality. Not always, but more often than not. And just who’s behind those comments anyway? Like-minded individuals? Most probably not.
On the flip side, LuxuryBARED’s reviews are written by people like myself who have been in the industry for many years. We know what to expect, how to winkle out what’s what when we’re there, how to ferret out the best-of-the-best, and what visitors should reasonably expect while in-house.
Finally, a professional reviewer’s job is to look at the greater picture and not focus on one-off events or mishaps which will have no impact on a future guest’s particular stay. This is what we do. There is a big difference, you will agree, between, as an example, someone being served a diet coke instead of a regular coke as a random human lapse, and a hotel not having adequate staff on its payroll to run the show as it should be operating. We grasp those nuances and help our members make the right decisions every time. And when you’re spending a great deal of money on a trip, that’s paramount.
What’s the difference between a LUXE and a PLATINUM membership?
LUXE membership is free. You simply need to register on the website to take advantage of all of the special amenities and read all the reviews and travel blogs. You can also post your own reviews.
PLATINUM membership is rewarded to those clients who reach a certain plateau in terms of bookings or monetary value. Specific details can be seen HERE, but I think you’ll find that the benefits are worth an awful lot and cost you absolutely nothing.
One thing PLATINUM members get is a free Priority Pass membership, a godsend considering they’ll have access to over 1200 network airport lounges across the globe (and at a special rate for an extra guest). There’ll come a day, trust me, when an Easyjet flight or the equivalent between, say, Geneva and Nice, will be delayed – Priority Pass to the rescue.
And in addition to this, PLATINUM members have access to a dedicated Travel Director who can arrange travel requirements which are too challenging to book online. Things that come to mind are several I have been working on recently, including a family trip to the North Pole over Christmas, a multi-destination African safari, a complicated journey in and around Bhutan and an Indian sojourn on land and water.
What are the hottest holiday destinations right now?
I’ve mentioned a few of them already; this year I have organised quite a few trips to Antarctica and also to the northern polar regions, which seems to be very ‘on trend’. It’s probably a good idea to visit the poles now, whilst they are still relatively exclusive. I’m sure things will start to change in the next few years.
Iceland is probably top of the list of European destinations this year, and our members are keen on the Nordic countries.
South America continues to be a huge destination for us: Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil are the norms, but we get enquiries from those travellers who have ‘been there, done it’ and want exciting new destinations like Columbia and Uruguay.
Africa is always popular, and the recent luxury hotel openings in Rwanda has made this top of the list. Luckily, we have our finger on the pulse of how to easily obtain visas and Gorilla Passes, which are kept to a very small number every day.
Finally, Asia and Australasia are big favourites. New Zealand and Australia are always in vogue, but I’ve recently organised trips to French Polynesia and some of the more unusual destinations, like the Marquesas, which are seriously off the beaten track and quite Jurassic experience-wise. The accommodation in such places is not ultra-luxury by any means, but the experience is something else.
Of course, Asia has always been popular, and Japan has really taken off. It is not cheap to travel in Japan, but you’ll be truly blown away by the culture, architecture and experience – not to mention the food!
What makes you excited to get to work every day?
As long as I haven’t been up half the night trying to rearrange flights that have gone wrong in some remote part of the world (like Madagascar, that happened recently!), every day is going to be different, and I love that aspect of my work. I can talk to people about a destination that they’ve never been to and inspire them to travel there. I then organise an amazing trip for them from top to bottom and put plans into motion.
I’m pretty passionate about experiential travel, and so are many of my clients. To take people out of their normal lives and give them a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience where they take something away with them when they leave, is fantastic. As an example, many of my clients come back after safaris, expeditions or even honeymoons and really want to get involved in conservation efforts. How cool is that?
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