Here at J5Travel, we have pretty much been working non-stop since the middle of last January, with no let up in the increased demand for our travel planning services. Clearly this is something we are deeply grateful for given what occurred in 2020 and through most of 2021, but it brought new challenges.
The travel industry worldwide has had to reframe itself and in many areas has struggled to return to the service levels of 2019. With so many travel service workers leaving the industry in 2020 it was very difficult to replace them even as growth surged through this year. New timelines on pretty much every aspect of our service have had to be drawn as suppliers struggle to meet our demands for their input and expertise, whether that be a hotel, airline or a tour company. We have not been immune. Despite being bold at the end of 2020 and hiring staff to get to a team of 7, this was still not enough to keep our customer service levels as high as they were previously.
We didn't miss any details at any point, but response times organically became longer and we had to prioritize trips usually in date of travel order so that we could fairly serve our clients. For anyone affected by this, thank you for your patience, and for sticking with us.
We are currently looking for 2 new team members, one in client care and one as a cruise planning assistant. If you're reading this weeks ezine and know of anyone who is in love with travel and would like to work for a luxury-focused travel advisor, please have them reach out to me via email at email@example.com.
2022 also brought back travel for all of the team here at J5Travel. I love to end the year with a review of my favorite travel photos with the famed Top 5 list, but I have so many from this year that I am going with a Top 10.
We hope you had a very happy holiday season and keep dreaming of your next trip! We can help with that.
Top 10 Photos of 2022
10. Home (above)
Back in March I headed to the Cotswolds in England for a few days, which was really my first visit to the area since leaving England for USA in 2002. The house above was our home in Chalford, Gloucestershire where both our children were born, and driving up the very narrow road to go check it out after 20 years was a huge trip down memory lane. Clearly the current owners are doing a much better job of maintaining the gardens and the 15th century house than we did, as it looked fabulous. I do remember though planting those daffodils!
9. Torrey Pines (above)
After enjoying a mini southern California road trip and a conference in Oceanside, CA in February I made the snap decision to attempt to get a last minute tee time at Torrey Pines. This US Open championship course had forever been on my bucket list. I was lucky and was able to obtain a mid-afternoon time, joining another pair. I'm not sure why, and I hope it wasn't down to me, but the 2 locals left after just 6 holes, leaving me to play alone. Awesome. It was a gorgeous afternoon and although it got dark just before I made it to the 17th and I played awfully, it didn't matter. I was so happy out there.
8. Family in Fiji (above)
There were still a lot of hoops to jump through in April 2022 but as soon as Australia indicated it would open to international tourists again, I was there. Not seeing my brother and his family was a tough ask during the whole of Covid for many reasons, and this made my visit very meaningful indeed. We even managed a side trip to Fiji which brought many laughs and another round of golf, this time on a dramatically stormy day. Jack, my nephew, and I survived somehow.
7. Hacienda Alta Gracia (above)
A visit to Hacienda Alta Gracia in Costa Rica at the beginning of our host agency's Top Proucers trip in June was something else. The property was recognized as a Top 50 hotel in the World for 2021 by Conde Nast and from my first day there it was easy to see why. Stunning suites and views, service that truly goes above and beyond with incredible detail in personalization, and the food was local and exceptional. Our entire group of fellow travel advisors was blown away.
6. The Team (above)
I was very proud to be able to take J5Travel's 3 main travel planners to Las Vegas and Virtuoso Travel Week back in August. Here they excelled in making new connections and representing us in the most professional and accomplished manner possible. If you have not interacted with them yet and have been unfortunately stuck with me, then here's a brief introduction.
Kanise (on the left as you look at the photo) is our phenomenal cruise planner, both river and ocean - and even World Cruises.
Kendall (center) is our Hawaii guru, an Italy whizz and an Ireland lover and expert. Also, don't get her started on Amsterdam!
Shanna (right) knows more about the Caribbean than Captain Jack Sparrow, and has grown into her role as France, Spain and Portugal specialist absolutely effortlessly.
They have worked their socks off this year and I want to thank them all.
5. Panama City (above)
My first time visit to Panama and the capital city was probably the trip that exceeded my expectations the most this year. Casco Viejo is the Old Quarter of Panama City, completed and settled in 1673. The area is a delight and at a complete tangent to the towering skyscrapers and throbbing financial hub that much of the city consists of. It is incredibly photogenic and charming. Highlights include the Metropolitan Cathedral and The Plazas, four main squares that reflect Spanish colonial architecture at its best. Add on the nearby intricacies of the Panama Canal and you have the makings of a wonderfully different itinerary for a long weekend or extend to see the highlights of the rest of the country.
4. Islas Secas (above)
And then on the same Panama trip there was our final stop for the last 3 nights, the incomparable Islas Secas. As unique a property you will ever find. Private island, all-inclusive to a level I've never seen before eg, world class diving. On property is a very sexy bar, wonderful food and a service level you experience in very few properties the world over. As you can see from my photo the nature surrounding us was incredible too, and hummingbirds were everywhere!
3. Thailand (above)
The team visited Thailand in September for the second year running. I've been jumping up and down about the amazing value at the luxury level in Thailand for a long time now, but very few clients have taken the plunge. Honestly, for next summer, a trip to Thailand will likely be half the price of an equivalent itinerary in Europe. Please consider this a public service announcment, Thailand will not disappoint you.
Loving Thai food helps of course, and this was my first time seeing the famous Damnoen Floating Market.
2. Maui (above)
As much as I loved Maui, I felt more at home on Kauai and learned that team member Kendall's Hawaiian knowledge is even more valuable than I had realized, as the islands differ greatly. But my favorite photo is the above, snapped on Maui's North Shore at Hookipa Beach, Maui's best surf beach. I was totally mesmerized for about 45 minutes. Zoom in just a little on the photo to check out some extreme surfing.
1. Galapagos (above)
My favorite overall trip of the year was to the Galapagos Islands in November. All the photos and nature documentaries in the world cannot prepare you for the experience. It was simply a long way beyond my expectations. The photo above symbolizes for me one of the main reasons you should head there if you are a nature lover. Species coexist here with almost no animal having a natural predator. My photo of a blue-footed booby having a chat with a marine iguana is a common occurence. We saw seals, penguins, marine iguanas and sea turtles all at the same time in close proximity at one point. And humans are also not considered predators, so almost all species completely ignore you, enabling visitors to get within mere feet of of the animal in question. It's both slightly bizarre and thrilling all at once.
I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to be building a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts. We provide a bespoke service, imagining and creating itineraries for independent minded families and groups.
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