PHOTO: Celebrity clients certainly make travel agents' lives interesting. (photo via Flickr/Gunther Hagleitner)
Annie Davis has had some really interesting experiences as a travel agent who has worked with celebrities. “A major actor always requests white cheddar mac and cheese and orange Gatorade served on all international flights,” said the founder of Palm Beach Travel based in South Florida. Annie is the Amex Travel Insider specializing in both Dubai and the British Virgin Islands and the agent of record for Etihad’s The Residence.
“Working with celebrities can be a unique experience,” she said. “The most challenging thing is the constant changes in their schedules. One day, they are in Iceland near a volcano, and the next they need to be in France for the Cannes Film Festival. Logistics can be challenging.”
So is securing the right amount of privacy and media coverage for their trips. “We want to make sure their trip is enjoyable,” said Davis. “If a client wants total privacy and no media opportunities, we make that happen.”
Working with celebrities also means being on call 24/7. “You never know when needs or schedules are going to change and you have to be ready,” she said.
Nothing can prepare Davis for the odd situations that come up, though. “We sent a reality TV star and her partner to a luxury private island,” she said. “When they arrived, the clients tried to buy drugs from the staff. They became irate that the staff would not assist with this. Within three hours of their arrival, she went on social media and ranted about this luxury island so badly that the resort and I helicoptered them to a large neighboring island. We warned the new resort of their pending arrival.”
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She’s has a celeb who always requests the non-sunny side of airplane and talked to a professional race car driver who wanted to know where the best place was to hook up in Dubai, but nothing beats the one celebrity client who just wanted to travel with her bikini and passport to The Maldives with her new husband.
“We called ahead to the resort and had them have her toiletries and a fully stocked boutique with size 0 clothing and size 7 sandals,” she said.
Greg Antonelle, managing director of MickeyTravels LLC said that celebrities are no different than any other client he works with. “However, they always seems to have higher budgets and typically cost is not an issue,” he said. “We have booked vacations for dozens of celebrities. One athlete’s wife contacted us about booking a trip. It turned into referrals to other athlete’s wives. We’ve booked baseball player’s vacations, football player’s cruises, and basketball player’s safaris. Generally speaking, they prefer to stay in high-end resorts and have a lot of privacy. In the end, they are looking for what every other average traveler is looking for – that is rest, relaxation, and making memories that their family will remember forever.”
Often when celebrities travel, they go ‘incognito.’ “Nowadays, most arrangements are made under other names within the party or personal assistants,” said Mario Scalzi of Parker Villas. “We sometimes discover the presence of celebrities in our homes when caretakers excitedly call to say, ‘You won't believe who's just said, Buon Giorno!’”
On the other hand, his staff never reacts whenever a celebrity actually identifies themselves by name.
“No one ever fawns over anyone,” he said. “From the richest to the most recognizable, a villa's utter seclusion nearly always trumps a more luxurious setting. Trust is earned and we earn ours by never revealing names and carefully guarding all personal contact information.”