For the fourth year in a row, Absolute Travel’s Leslie Overton has made the cut as Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Specialist for Family Travel to Asia. Impressive. Below she discusses her impressions of the 8th annual Travel Specialist Summit in Sin City.
In January I attended the Condé Nast Traveler Exchange: The Travel Specialists Summit, an event that usually place on my home turf in New York City, but this year was held at the brand spanking new Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas – a usually a much welcomed retreat from New York’s bone chilling winter, but this year it was pretty darn cold too! The Condé Nast Traveler Exchange connects the crème-de-la-crème in the travel industry with each other and with the Condé Nast staff, enriching the travel experience from all sides.
The Cosmopolitan was brave to host roughly 150 seasoned travel professionals among their very first guests – an unapologetically opinionated crew – but the hotel exceeded our expectations. Like every new property there were kinks that needed to be ironed out (obnoxiously long check-in lines and wrong room category battles, to name a couple) but even still, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has earned the position of my favorite hotel in Sin City. It has all the bells and whistles that a luxury hotel should: an ultra-modern chic décor; a perfect location within walking distance of anything you want (and don’t!); and the most luxurious ambiance around, just walk in the Chandelier Bar for a taste if you’re not staying there…
Aside from luxuriating at the gorgeous hotel, the best part about the Condé Nast Traveler Exchange has always been the networking opportunities with like-minded travel professionals who also value excellence in our craft. Every year we ask for more networking time just so we can share ideas and feedback with each other. This year Condé Nast Traveler added the element of having travel vendors there as well. I have to admit, at first I was skeptical as not many of the products have much to do with my parts of the world, but I ended up meeting some wonderful people and making some great connections!
Some standouts from the event:
Grupo Habita: I don’t handle Mexico, but if I did these are the properties I’d like to stay in! Rafael Micha Smeke’s properties are cool, boutique hotels with a modern vibe. We are all excited about the New York property, which has already received a great mention in the New York Times!
DuVine Adventures: With the tagline, “Bike. Eat. Drink. Sleep.”, what is there not to like? The charismatic president and founder Andy Levine had me ready to get on my bike and ride, with a glass of wine!
Inside Sports & Entertainment Group: The bottomline — these guys get you into where you want to get in. Having handled the World Cup this year and the Olympics two years ago in our destinations, I generally steer clear of tickets, but Jim Zissler made it seem easy. These guys also just had a great write up in the New York Times this weekend!
And some of my old favorite friends who were at the event:
Monica Chandra, The Saxon: I love the Saxon in Johannesburg. It feels like home in a very intimidating city – granted a very grand home! I once arrived at The Saxon off an international flight that had been delayed on the tarmac three hours for a medical emergency, with my luggage lost, and in the middle of a torrential downpour. The minute I walked in The Saxon’s door all of that immediately fell away and life was good.
Andrew Rein, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts: The event wasn’t all play… Andrew and I organized a last minute group to the Kowloon Shangri-La while we were in Las Vegas! Sasha, our operations manager, just stayed at the relatively new Shangri-La Tokyo during the Blossom Japan conference and she loved it! And Ashley Kiel, one of our sales associates, just returned from five relaxing days at the Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort and Spa in Oman. What am I doing wrong that I wasn’t staying at a Shangri-La, just talking about them!
Wanda S. Radetti, Tasteful Croatian Journeys: My mother was born in the former Yugoslavia, and some of my earliest travel memories are of our adventures traveling back to visit my grandmother. Croatia is one of the most beautiful places in the world, which I think would surprise most Americans! The next time I go back, I will definitely have Wanda take care of me.
Nicole Varizi, Hyatt International : Just a shout out to Nicole who was brave enough to come out and sit through meetings with a baby kicking in her stomach. Good luck Nicole!