After 42 years in the workplace and completing a rewarding second career as a Registered Landscape Architect, I have reinvented myself yet a third time as a professional travel consultant. When I first tell friends and colleagues about my venture into the world of travel they seem puzzled at the connection between design and travel. I think it is a natural evolution and let me explain why it works for me and it works to your advantage as a potential client.
1. Landscape architects appreciate and study art, design and balance. They develop a blend of technical skills and design with aesthetic results. They study architecture and garden designs from all over the world. The projects they design need to be functional, attractive, and safe. They tend to be collaborative and may call in other experts to assist with project planning and implementation.
The professional travel consultant also appreciates art, design and balance, but perhaps from a slightly different perspective. They want their clients to experience the very best of the world around us, balancing fun and relaxation with social awareness with cultural education. They study the world’s great destinations and activities with the intent of merging the technical skills of getting you there with the physical and visual experience of place. They design travel packages that are efficient, functional, attractive, and safe. And much like the landscape architect, a professional travel consultant may call in other destination and local experts to assist with planning your trip.
2. Landscape Architects are well acquainted with continuing education. Many states require education credits to renew certification as a registrant. This means that typically, landscape architects are consistently in self-education mode, attending conferences, webinars, reading journals, and taking refresher classes. They need to be at the top of their game in order to provide the very best project to their client.
So it is with a professional travel consultant, they are in constant self-education mode; attending conferences, webinars, reading travel journals, and taking destination courses as they are offered. The world is constantly changing. New markets open up and traditional ones close due to economics or politics. New adventures emerge along with opportunities to experience the world we live in from a different point of view than that of previous generations of travelers. They need to be at the top of their game in order to provide the very best experience to their clients.
3. Landscape architects typically work with a select team of experts that they know and respect. Over time, they get to know their sub-consultants and contractors well; they learn how to craft design to their team’s best strengths and expertise. They may not use all their stable of experts and contractors at the same time, but will select the best for the project as appropriate.
Likewise, over time, professional travel consultants get to know their vendors and suppliers well. They become familiar with the best features and strengths of their preferred vendors in order to design your trip around what will be the best experience for your desires and budget. They may not use all available suppliers for a given trip and might even seek out referrals for qualified vendors from fellow professionals for adventures and locations that may offer the best experience for their clientele.
4. Landscape architects are well acquainted with budgets. As a project begins, a landscape architect will often ask the client questions such as what is the ultimate goal? How much is appropriate to spend? Does it need to be phased? Are there any upgrades that might be desirable if within budget? Armed with answers, the landscape architect then approaches the task with another question – will the outcome be pleasing and memorable for my client and the users?
Professional travel consultants also deal with budgets, and they also ask questions of their clients: where would you like to go – have you been there before? How many are going and what is the budget for the trip? If I can add upgrades to the trip that are within budget is that desirable? Do you want to go to multiple destinations? All the while, the questions are framed within an overarching goal is to create a memory by making the trip as relaxing and pleasing as possible, and the best value for the expense.
5. Landscape architects are trained to be attentive to public safety. They constantly refer to guidelines and best practices to ensure a safe outcome for the project. Even tough they may carry errors and omission insurance, the goal is to never have to use it. They accomplish this by making certain the project they design is within recognized safety parameters. Safety of the client and the users is paramount.
Professional travel consultants are also focused on safety. They strongly recommend that clients add travel protection to the cost of their travel package with the hope that there will never be a reason to use it. As industry insiders, they are all too aware of the myriad of problems that can arise on any given trip. They diligently research news and travel advisories for and make an effort to give their clients guidance and local resources In the unlikely event that someone might need help on a trip. Their hope and desire is that each traveler will be safe and secure no matter where in the world they may be.
6. Landscape architects as a profession are environmentally-grounded -they value the environment and efficient design that does no harm. In the process they carefully select honest suppliers and professionals who are like minded. By respecting the environment rather than exploiting it, they pledge that our children and their children may have the same opportunities and experiences in their futures. Those who do not respect the environment tend to be “in it for a buck” and not necessarily for the public’s benefit or enjoyment.
Professional travel consultants as a profession are also environmentally-grounded. Perhaps in a different sense, but they too are careful to select honest suppliers and businesses who respect their local environments rather than exploiting it. For the professional travel consultant the world is their product and they want to be certain that future generations will have the same experience that you enjoy today. Professional travel consultants also avoid those who tend to be “in it for a buck,” protecting your investment and enjoyment.
7. Landscape architects as a profession (at least in my experience) are not a part of the wealthy 1%. You won’t find many if at any in the Forbes top 100 list. That’s not to say their aren’t successful businesses among the professions, but most of my colleagues are not moguls of society. Why? (Well, my view is that they care too much). Landscape architects tend to be engaged in their communities and causes. They are more inclined than any other profession I know of to cut their fees in order to save a project. They are loyal to their employees and pay a decent wage. Competition is fierce and often unfair. Other less–qualified individuals may convince someone they don’t need a registrant because they can “perform” just like one for a much lower cost. Internet sites and computer design programs may hint or claim they can provide the same level of expertise for you at the cost of software or no additional expense. And everybody “knows” a kid down the block with a pick-up truck and a rake who can do the job just as well. All of these circumstances are recipes for disaster. The old adage that “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” is something we should test all transactions with.
I didn’t get rich as a landscape architect, and as a professional travel consultant, I’m not planning to become wealthy. That’s just not my motivation. And while I’m certain there are some agencies that are in the upper echelons of earnings, I’m convinced that most home-based consultants are actually in the business for the love of travel and to help others. Truth is, a professional travel consultant will care deeply about your travel experience. Why? Because we want to help you and your friends over and over – for every destination in your bucket list. Yeah, everyone knows they can probably find anything cheaper on the internet. (“recipe for disaster” !!) Occasionally someone will pick my knowledge for information then book a trip on their own or through a “discount” agency. (Also, a “recipe for disaster.”) Most vacations now days will average between $2000 – $4000 per person so you better be certain you have the right person assisting you with your planning. It makes all the difference in the world.
One last observation on the topic. Granted, most homeowners “design” and plant their own front and back yards. Likewise, most travelers research their own travel on-line or through travel books. For either, the results may be adequate, but for many the results could have been so much better. I cannot count the many times have I heard the story “I wish I hadn’t planted a tree their or picked that shrub! Google the word “travel” and you’ll get back 846,000,000 results. Try “Hawaii” and you’ll receive 125,000,000 hits. Seriously? Do anyone really have the time to sort through that much information? This is why going with a professional travel consultant will be the best bang you can get for your travel buck.
Jeff Sargent is a Registered Landscape Architect in Arizona and former State Chapter President and Trustee of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). He currently owns and operates i-Global Travel, LLC, a web-based travel consulting business, and is a member of National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA), American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), Cruise Lines International Association (ASTA), and Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN). Visit his web site at http://www.iglobaltravel.com.