Original 02adafec512c6e556da07f707263b450.jpg?1478725515?ixlib=rails 0.3

Where does innovative thinking come from? The answer is deeply personal, yet a common refrain ties it to opportunities that allow your mind to wander; that encourage spontaneous and serendipitous encounters; and that take you out of your routine. Travel, in other words—if you do it right.

Forging connections with locals is one way to elevate your journey, and it’s encouraged by many of the visionaries that AFAR has named to the 2016 Travel Vanguard. From hotels to airport dining, these industry leaders are improving the travel experience in myriad ways while delivering on values like inclusion, conservation, and personalized service.

Upgrading life on the move is also the goal of TUMI, whose luggage and accessories seamlessly meld form with function and push the boundaries of design. The brand’s first-ever aluminum luggage collection, 19 Degree, has an eye-catching contoured silhouette that elevates your journey while looking cool in the process.

TUMI’s approach is truly unique, one of the qualities the Travel Vanguard highlighted when asked about what they admire in the travel space. Read on for more of the companies and individuals they look to as innovators.

Jonathan Mildenhall, Chief Marketing Officer, Airbnb: “I respect Four Seasons because of its customer loyalty and consistency. The one in Atlanta is exactly what you expect a luxury hotel in Atlanta to look and feel like, while in Bali and Singapore, the hotels are what you’d expect a luxury property in those countries and cultures to show up like. I also love the slightly irreverent, slightly provocative approach of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America.”

article continues below ad

The Travel Vanguard: Jonathan Mildenhall from AFAR Media on Vimeo.

Rick Blatstein, founder of OTG: “I admire Ian Schrager for his hotels and how unique they are. He pays attention to detail, and experience is very important to him. I’ve seen a lot of other copycats or hotels that try to over-deliver a little bit and you can feel and see it, but you don’t get that with Schrager—he’s great.”

Jonathan Frolich, VP of Global Brands at Andaz: Generator Hostels is doing great job at marrying value with chic environments and links to local culture. And I admire Everlane because of the pricing transparency, the story behind the product, and the social good aspect. There are also plenty of single operators and owners who follow a passion, and I take my hat off to those unsung, hardworking heroes.”

Ben Weprin, founder of AJ Capital Partners: “I admire restaurateur Danny Meyer as well as Nick Jones for what he does at Soho House. Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm of the Boka Restaurant Group in Chicago and Frank Pellegrino of Rao’s also come to mind. And hotelier Barry Sternlicht is amazing for what he’s done with scaling the Starwood brands and now launching 1 Hotels—I’m such a student and a fan.”

Sonia Cheng, CEO of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts: “My father launched one of the first luxury hotels in China and is so knowledgeable about the industry and how to be a success in it.  Both my father and grandfather have taught me to invest in people and to practice humility. You can have the best design, the best advertising and marketing strategy, but without the people behind you, it is impossible have a successful brand.”

article continues below ad