Our very own Beth Rubin, Manager of Custom Travel Planning & Sales, has been named for the second year in a row to the prestigious Travel+ Leisure® A-List of Top Travel Advisors for her expertise in custom Italian travel planning. The Travel + Leisure® A-List is one of the industry’s major recognitions for destination experts, showcasing the best specialists in the business. Every year editors of the world’s most influential travel magazine evaluate hundreds of travel consultants and pick their favorites. Beth Rubin is one of the award winning advisors of the 2015 edition!
What does it mean to be a Top Travel Agent? Get to know Beth, her predictions about travel to Italy in 2016, favorite destinations, tips and secret finds in this exclusive interview.
Top Travel Agent 2016: An Interview with Our Beth Rubin
How many years have you been a travel specialist? What inspired you to pursue this career path?
15 years. I was living in Italy on a study abroad. I came back to Chicago and still had an apartment that I had to pay rent on. I saw an ad in the local weekly for this job. I took it and told myself it would be just until I found something else. That was 15 years ago and my resume is still on a floppy disc. I just clicked with the company right away. You could say we grew up together – It was a new start-up and I was new to the industry. Once I really got going, it was a perfect match. The feedback I receive from clients inspires me to continue the pursuit of excellence in travel planning.
What are the unique skills that make you the best in your area of expertise?
I keep up on the most interesting hotels and activities for my clients. I am constantly updating my internal portfolio with new and interesting experiences to offer. I keep little gems in my back pocket and save them for the perfect client match. I put together a 10th anniversary trip for a client this summer, and secretly the husband contacted me to ask for a special evening to surprise his wife during the trip. He didn’t know what he wanted, but he knew he needed to wow her. I told him of one of my favorite romantic spots, just outside of Rome, that has only one table. Each night there is only one reservation and that reservation gets the full attention of the chef, staff, etc. When the clients returned the wife sent me a review of the trip and when she got to that evening she said “that night brought me to tears! What a wonderful, thoughtful addition to an already amazing itinerary!”
What is the most over-the-top, difficult, or rewarding trip you have booked in recent years?
I designed a wine tour for a group of friends (4 couples) that are super wine geeks. They always go to the best wine areas, have visited France several times together, but this was their first time going all together to Italy. I was tasked with getting them into the best vineyards – nothing pedestrian or touristy would do. I made sure to add in a couple of vineyards they would be unfamiliar with because they are so small they don’t export to the US. In addition to the wine portion, I went out of my way to include unique experiential extras, such as a visit to a saffron producer in Umbria.
What is the best new hotel you’ve experienced this year?
Casa Fabbrini, Roma. The family that brought us the charming Casa Fabbrini in Tuscany has done it again, this time in the heart of the Eternal City. With only a handful of rooms and hands-on attention, this is a great retreat in the middle of frenetic Rome.
Have you identified any secret finds lately?
The region of Calabria. This is the southernmost point on the western side of the boot – it is the toe, in fact. I had the pleasure of spending several days with a local family that is very interested in promoting the region. We visited many very particular small towns in the region, my favorite being Pentidatillo: a small ghost town that appears to be carved into the hills. I have found that not only have Americans not discovered this land, Italians themselves haven’t visited the region. It is rich in cultural heritage, fantastic culinary traditions and is untouched by the modern build up that popular tourism brings about.
What two destinations do you predict will be popular in 2016, and why?
In Italy I would say Puglia will be very popular. It has so much to offer: their food and wine productions are spectacular, there are rich cultural offerings in the “major” cities of Bari and Lecce, and they offer magnificent beaches along the coast. Even the Italians are headed there…
I think the wine regions will be popular, too – this can include Tuscany, Piedmont, Sicily even the countryside outside of Venice. Food and wine are huge for tourists right now. Everyone wants to include vineyard visits in their itineraries, and I think we’ll see a resurgence in visits to Tuscany (as if it had slowed down to begin with) as well as some of the other main wine producing regions.
What general or specific trends are you noticing across the travel industry?
Family roots is a very popular theme right now. I get clients all the time wanting to go to Italy to see where their ancestors came from. This can be part of a “regular” itinerary, or the sole purpose of the trip. Recently I even had a fellow travel professional looking for my help in this arena.
Now it’s your turn to get answers about travel to Italy from our Top Travel Specialist! What are your questions for Beth? Leave them in the comment box below.