Claire Hanney, the Global Product Development Manager at Insight Vacations, has perhaps one of the world’s enviable jobs. In her role of developing Insight Vacations’ Luxury Gold trips, she travels the world creating itineraries that promise guests the ultimate in luxury and refinement. She checks out Baroque palaces for private concerts, assuring the champagne will be properly chilled, but she also finds off-the-beaten path farms and artists’ studios. We sat down with her to talk about how she ended up in her current job and the upcoming launch in 2016 of Luxury Gold Vacations.
AFAR: You are paid to travel the world, and seek out exceptional experiences for Luxury Gold travelers. How did you manage to land that job?
Hanney: This is really what I’ve been working towards for my entire career. I spent six years on road as a tour director, working my way through all the regions of Europe—Western Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe. Then I went into the office to focus on coaching new tour directors on how to do their job brilliantly and implementing quality control so that guests’ expectations are always met. It’s that background that helps assure we make every moment a wow moment for travelers on a Luxury Gold trip.
AFAR: What, exactly, do Luxury Gold Vacations offer travelers?
Hanney: We are creating the best touring product ever seen, with stays at incredible hotels in incredible destinations. Our goal is to open every door for our travelers and make even the most exclusive places accessible to them. We are giving them the keys to cities that they wouldn’t have traveling on their own. This means meals in Michelin-starred restaurants, but it also means opportunities to meet with the dairy farmer who is creating the cheeses served at the Michelin restaurants. The first departure will be an Ultimate Italy itinerary, in April 2016. I’m excited to see the reactions of guests.
AFAR: This new program promises a lot. How do you go about assuring you’ll have a product that meets the high expectations?
Hanney: We start with the destinations and offering trips to places our clients are passionate about. So it starts with research, and figuring out the interests of our travelers and the places in Europe and beyond that speak to them. We know that many travelers drawn to Ireland and Italy are often interested in those countries because of their heritage, while culture, and especially gastronomy, is the principal appeal of France. We keep this in mind once we begin to build itineraries, and that work becomes very detailed.
We need to make sure there is the right variety of dinners on a trip, for example, and that all our local experts are briefed and equipped to deliver exceptional experiences. It’s a job that is both very broad in scope and also very focused.
AFAR: Are there trends you have noticed in terms of what travelers want today?
Hanney: They are definitely interested in slowing the pace down. Cities like Amsterdam can’t be rushed, but we are also including more time in some destinations that aren’t as well known. We have an overnight in Bremen, for example, on one of our Northern European trips. It’s not as famous as, say, Berlin but it’s a city that we know will appeal to our travelers and so we spend an overnight there.
AFAR: OK, we are ready to book. Where should we go to see what itineraries still have spaces available?
Hanney: There is still room on some trips! On Insight Vacations’ website you can find more about what distinguishes Luxury Gold and information about all the itineraries we are offering in our launch year.
Make sure to check back to AFAR Insiders to read our next interview with Claire, in which she covers the highlights of some of Luxury Gold’s inaugural itineraries.