July 22, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

The Ultimate Travel Advisor Guide to Destination Management Companies

Every career has a metaphorical toolbox — a set of skills and strategies that helps professionals build toward success. A teacher’s toolbox contains patience, imagination and subject-matter knowledge; a doctor’s kit stores empathy, expertise and a sharp attention to detail. 

Travel advisor Sheri Clarke, owner of Picture This Travel, says the vital tools that help her achieve her business goals include keen listening skills, a breadth of travel knowledge (so that she can guide clients to the right trip) and trusted relationships within the industry.

Of course, no one begins his or her career with a full toolbox. But over the course of months and years, an advisor’s tool collection becomes vast, and improves the quality of the work being done. Utilizing destination management companies, or DMCs, is one industry tool that many advisors say they only began to employ after some time in the field, typically after working with tour operators and wholesalers.

Destinationmanagementcompanies_curatedgreece1
Vasilis Sarmantas is one of owners of Curated Greece, a DMC that specializes in Greece
Credit: 2022 Curated Greece

“Working with a DMC becomes easier as you hone in on your own business niche,” said Brianna Glenn, owner and travel designer of Milk + Honey Travels. “Many of the DMCs I use, I came to after I was a bit more established in my business. But you can also learn from fellow advisors you respect, and who you feel like you can get a good recommendation from.”

What Are Destination Management Companies?

The most significant benefit of working with DMCs is the depth of knowledge they bring to the table. 

DMCs pride themselves on this; many (if not all) DMC staffers live in the country advisors are booking for clients, and they regularly scout the place to inform their work. That means they know the hidden gems and the cultural expectations, and have their own trusted connections on the ground (hoteliers, tour guides and more), which all benefits clients.

Their expertise lies in one, two, maybe three places at most, whereas my expertise lies in general travel knowledge about the world, and about my clients themselves.

This wealth of information is invaluable. Heather Christopher, owner of Heather Christopher Travel Consulting, says that once she recognized and accepted that there was only so much knowledge of a destination she could have herself, she knew she could serve her clients better if she built trusted, lasting relationships with select DMCs.

Murray Gardiner is CEO of Giltedge, a DMC that specializes in Eastern and Southern Africa
Murray Gardiner is CEO of Giltedge, a DMC that specializes in Eastern and Southern Africa
Credit: 2022 Giltedge

“Their expertise lies in one, two, maybe three places at most, whereas my expertise lies in general travel knowledge about the world, and about my clients themselves,” she said. 

So, Christopher works doggedly to know her clients and understand what they want out of a trip, then make the best move from there in terms of booking. If clients seek a unique and extremely detailed itinerary — and more and more of them do, advisors say — partnering with a DMC is an excellent option. And doing so has only bolstered Christopher’s business.

Maja Gudelj is the Croatia specialist at Olive Tree Escapes
Maja Gudelj is the Croatia specialist at Olive Tree Escapes
Credit: 2022 Olive Tree Escapes

“If I partner with a DMC, it’s because they are doing great work,” she says. “Then, my job is to sell that itinerary and answer my clients’ questions. This may be harder for a new advisor to grasp — there’s a lot of nuance there — but I have learned to leverage my time this way. That’s how I’m able to work with 250-plus clients a year.”

Another incomparable benefit to working with DMCs is their ability to navigate unexpected challenges. Stephanie Goldberg-Glazer, chief experience officer of Live Well Travel Often, was recently impressed by her partnership with destination management company Travelive.

Mina Agnos of Travelive
Mina Agnos of Travelive
Credit: 2022 Travelive

She had two sets of clients in Greece this past spring when a ferry strike began. Before Goldberg-Glazer had even lifted a finger, Travelive contacted her to share that they had already procured airline tickets for all clients in order to get them to their remaining itinerary stops.

“All I had to do was pay for [the airline tickets] on the clients’ behalf,” Goldberg-Glazer said. “When they got home, we helped them file insurance claims to recoup the extra money they had to spend. The bottom line: There was very little impact on the clients because of Travelive’s swift action.”

This attention to detail also impresses Angela Isherwood, owner of Olive and Atlas. She says the 24/7 assistance provided by her DMCs sets them apart from a trip purchased from a wholesaler or a tour operator; the latter options make her feel several levels removed from her clients once they are on the ground in the destination.

Eric Kareus is the co-owner of Asia Transpacific Journeys, a DMC that specializes in Asia and the South Pacific
Eric Kareus is the co-owner of Asia Transpacific Journeys, a DMC that specializes in Asia and the South Pacific
Credit: 2022 Asia Transpacific Journeys

And as the travel world comes back online post pandemic, advisors are leaning even more into DMCs for their level of care and up-to-date knowledge. Clarke of Picture This Travel knows that the pandemic took a toll on suppliers around the world. What if that hotel in Italy she loved no longer has quality service, or if a certain restaurant is not up to par anymore? These are things in-country DMC staffers can vet to ensure client satisfaction. 

DMCs Vs. Wholesalers and Tour Operators

Working with a DMC is not a way to turn a huge profit, but it allows advisors to provide clients with truly personalized trips. And a client is likely to pay for that expertise; a DMC partnership itinerary is usually higher in cost than an off-the-shelf trip from a wholesaler or tour operator.

Christopher says she has also noticed a shrinking number of DMC options in the middle price range, meaning these extra-intricate itineraries are accessible to fewer clients nowadays. So again, working with a DMC comes back to advisors knowing their clients and building relationships with their chosen DMCs so that advisors can talk transparently about budget, client wishes and what is possible given budget parameters.

To start building a DMC toolbox, advisors recommend talking to trusted peers to gather vetted recommendations.

Mohan Narayanaswamy of Travel Scope India
Mohan Narayanaswamy of Travel Scope India
Credit: 2022 Travel Scope India

If you’re able to discover and build a strong partnership with the right DMC — even if it takes a while — you’re sure to reap the rewards.

“A great DMC can make you look like a superstar,” Goldberg-Glazer said.

7 Top Destination Management Companies Approved by Travel Advisors

Below are seven destination management companies that travel advisors are loving right now.

Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ)
Specialty: Asia and the South Pacific
Who to Know at ATJ: Eric Kareus, co-owner
Recommended By: Sheri Clarke, owner of Picture This Travel
Why ATJ:
“ATJ is my No. 1 DMC pick because of Eric Kareus’ incredible attention to detail, and his willingness to work and rework a trip until every last detail is perfection. He also looks for ways to make my clients feel extra special while on their vacation, thus making me look like a rock star. Trips emphasize cultural understanding, in-depth interpretation utilizing the region’s best guides and respect for the people and environments visited.” 

He also looks for ways to make my clients feel extra special while on their vacation, thus making me look like a rock star.

Curated Greece  
Specialty: Greece
Who to Know: Co-owners Vasilis Sarmantas and Seetha Ramanathan
Recommended By: Angela Isherwood, owner of Olive and Atlas
Why Curated Greece:
“Seetha Ramanathan and Vasilis Sarmantas care about making direct relationships with travel advisors and fostering strong partnerships. Their team is fantastic and very detail-oriented, their suppliers in Greece love them and they can be flexible with budget; they are amazing at providing a world-class experience even if clients do not fit into the ultra-luxe space. They are also phenomenal when it comes to special requests/food allergies and quick to respond if you need something urgently.” 

Seetha Ramanathan of Curated Greece
Seetha Ramanathan of Curated Greece
Credit: 2022 Curated Greece

Giltedge
Specialty: Southern and Eastern Africa
Who to Know: Murray Gardiner, CEO
Recommended By: Brianna Glenn, owner of Milk + Honey Travels
Why Giltedge:
“I absolutely love Giltedge. They specialize in luxury foreign independent travel (FIT) and they are so knowledgeable about the destination, provide the most amazing itineraries for my clients and give exceptional coverage on the ground. They are also very good about checking in and being supportive of my business.”

Olive Tree Escapes
Specialty: Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, Montenegro
Who to Know: Beth Rubin, owner, and Maja Gudelj, Croatia specialist
Recommended by: Abby Adams, travel advisor, Journeys Yacht & Travel
Why Olive Tree Escapes: 
“This DMC has helped me organize everything from a romantic, four-star boutique honeymoon to a luxury road trip through Italy and a five-star ‘Game of Thrones’ themed trip to Croatia. These destinations are so popular that it is important to have a DMC you can trust. I never hesitate to work with Olive Tree Escapes.”  

Beth Rubin is the owner of Olive Tree Escapes
Beth Rubin is the owner of Olive Tree Escapes
Credit: 2022 Olive Tree Escapes

Travelive 
Specialty: Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Croatia
Who to Know: Mina Agnos, owner
Recommended By: Stephanie Goldberg-Glazer, CEO of Live Well Travel Often
Why Travelive:
“Mina’s team is phenomenal. They just secured a spectacular itinerary for me to Croatia on three weeks’ notice (and handled all of my changes flawlessly). Even more importantly, they are wonderful at assisting with on-the-ground, last-minute issues.”  

Titanium Tours  
Specialty: Spain, Portugal, France
Who to Know: Jesus Repetto, CEO
Recommended By: Stephanie Goldberg-Glazer, CEO of Live Well Travel Often
Why Titanium Tours:
“Jesus makes things very easy for me, offering amazing experiences and superb service. He is extremely responsive, helpful and constantly offers great suggestions. Alexandra, also on the team, puts together fantastic itineraries and is super detailed.” 

Jesus Repetto is the CEO of Titanium Tours, a DMC that specializes in Spain, Portugal and France
Jesus Repetto is the CEO of Titanium Tours, a DMC that specializes in Spain, Portugal and France
Credit: 2022 Titanium Tours

Travel Scope India
Specialty: India
Who to Know: Mohan Narayanaswamy 
Recommended By: Hope Smith, owner of Born to Travel
Why Travel Scope India:
“I have known Mohan for more than 20 years; he isn’t doing cookie-cutter itineraries, even if you are a first-time visitor to India. He is responsible, fair when it comes to pricing and he travels to see hotels and destinations within India firsthand. I know that my clients are in good hands with Travel Scope India.” 

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