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Contact Us for your On the Road Again needs!

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Contact Us for your On the Road Again needs!

As two of the managers and owners of Preferred Travel, Kristina and Kody Gear get to travel to places like Iguazu Falls on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. Jan and Brad Price have taken 17 trips prior to now 10 years. Kim Judge and Mike Jones about 10. And each couples have booked through Preferred Travel & Company, which is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this yr. “After we first began traveling, we planned it ourselves and it was too difficult,” says Mike Jones. “Our requests usually are not cookie-cutter. It’s easier with a travel agent to handle every little thing.” Jones and his wife have used Preferred Travel to book trips to Africa, Australia, Petra and the Suez Canal, amongst other destinations, counting on Kit Mathews, senior luxury agent and Naples office manager. “He’s an absolute joy to work with, knows exactly what we like and takes care of every little thing for us,” Jones says, adding that Mathews has arranged private tours on the Louvre and the Vatican for the couple. Jan and Brad Price also work with Mathews on the various cruises they’ve taken through the Caribbean, Europe and North America. They’ve booked Iceland and Antarctica for upcoming travels. Earl Hodges, Alvarene and Gavin Storter, and Wilma Boyd in 1984 on the ribbon cutting for the founding of the travel agency. “They’ll normally get us room upgrades, recommendations on restaurants in various ports, and shipboard credits,” says Jan Price. Brad Price echoes his wife’s sentiments. “We got past the parable that it costs more to make use of knowledgeable travel agent,” he says. “We’ve found it actually saves you money and a considerable amount of effort and time in putting details together. They at all times discover a technique to save on airfare and hotels.” Wilma Boyd founded the business in 1984 after 14 years as chief interviewer for flight attendants with Trans World Airlines (TWA) and running the Wilma Boyd Profession School that taught people about airline industry careers. When she and her husband retired to Naples, family friend Earl Hodges asked Boyd to open a travel agency with him. “Travel was a hot business,” says Boyd, recalling that the community already had about two dozen agencies. She says people were traveling domestically greater than internationally, and cruises were just starting to turn into popular. Preferred Travel customers Mike and Kim Jones during a visit to Rwanda, August 2023. “People work hard and get bored and want to get away,” Boyd says. “It’s a pleasant technique to rest and recharge. People need to explore destinations. And, they are saying, travel gets in your blood.” After just a few years, Boyd and Hodges bought one other travel agency where Olga Placeres was an accountant. Boyd credits Placeres with helping her expand the agency that Placeres purchased when Boyd retired in 2019. “She was a mover and a shaker and so dedicated,” Boyd says. “I could never have built that agency to the scale it’s without Olga. She was a really special co-worker and good friend.” Placeres shares mutual admiration for Boyd. “All the pieces I do know and every little thing I’m is due to Wilma and her mentorship. I’m truly honored to have been by her side for thus a few years. She took me under her wing and at all times said ‘You may do that.’ It was a terrific learning experience.” Placeres recalls how the corporate continued to accumulate other travel agencies. “We figured the perfect technique to increase our market share was to collaborate with smaller agencies throughout the Nineties and early 2000s,” Placeres says. They began with a staff of about 10 people in the identical office to now having three offices — Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Lauderdale — in addition to agents working remotely throughout the US, Central and South America, and even France. There are about 70 agents and employees. Kristina and Kody Gear within the Netherlands in 2022. COURTESY PHOTOS The client base modified through the years, too, from businesses needing corporate travel to focusing now on people taking leisure trips. But some things haven’t modified. “People prefer to be handheld,” Placeres says. “They need to sit down across a desk with someone and review their itinerary or dream or wish list.” Over time, Placeres watched hot spots spring up. “Dubai was an enormous deal after they were constructing within the late Nineties and early 2000s,” she recalls. “It was earth-shattering.” African safaris are at all times popular, she says, and Italy and France top many individuals’s list. Portugal, she notes, is currently a hot destination. Travel to Japan is so popular without delay, it’s difficult to get reservations. There’s also a trend for wellness travel. Helping people find out about potential travel locations and what’s recent in travel is a component of the agency’s mission. They hold “exploration events” all year long with speakers from cruise lines, hotel chains and destinations as well an annual travel expo. Recent exploration topics have included Greenland, the Arctic, and cruising the Great Lakes. “We try to coach the client as to what is occurring within the industry,” Placeres says. All the staff of Preferred Travel gathered during their annual Travel Showcase event in February. HELEN WERNER PHOTOGRAPHY / COURTESY PHOTO They often take clients on tours of recent cruise ships that come into Florida ports. Cruising comprises about 60% of Preferred Travel’s business, and international travel represents 70%. Eleven years ago, Placeres’s daughter, Kristina Gear, joined the business. The mother and daughter faced their first big challenge just just a few months after acquiring Preferred Travel in late 2019 when the pandemic greatly impacted travel. They’re most pleased with the proven fact that they didn’t have to lay off anyone. The truth is, they began acquiring smaller agencies, partnered with travel advisors who were displaced, and say they emerged stronger, positioning the agency for post-pandemic growth. “We had all this excitement about our future after which the pandemic hit,” Placeres recalls. “We called clients day by day to be certain that they were OK. We made sure we answered the phone, because many firms shuttered. We did events via Zoom to proceed the conversation. We reinvigorated the travel bug.” Placeres says that because the pandemic eased, they’d a stronger client base with a pent-up need for travel and really busy agents. They brought in Kristina’s husband, Kody Gear, so as to add to the management team and concentrate on technology. “People appreciate travel so way more now,” says Kristina Gear. “Before the pandemic, it was taken without any consideration that individuals would at all times give you the chance to go wherever they wanted.” She also says persons are traveling more with their families and multiple generations. “It’s vital for that point together and for those experiences as a substitute of fabric things,” she notes. “Grandparents are gifting the travel experience.” Just a few years ago, Preferred Travel planned a client’s sixty fifth anniversary trip to Paris that included 78 members of the family. Three staff members accompanied the entourage to make sure smooth travels. Even when a visit isn’t that involved, a travel agent can provide guidance that may’t be found by someone booking travel themselves online. “It feels like such an easy thing to do, but there’s way more when you get into the booking side of things,” says Kristina Gear. “You should be certain that a web site has reliable information. Are the places secure? We’ve firsthand knowledge.” She says they know their clients well enough to recommend specific destinations, hotels, drivers, restaurants and activities. “Our staff has traveled extensively and learned in-depth what the clients can expect,” says Placeres. Preferred Travel may also often include perks equivalent to free WiFi or breakfast, resort or spa credits, or other booking incentives and promotions the general public may not have access to. And so they can be found 24/7 when their clients need assistance with a delayed or missed flight or other emergency. “In case your flight is canceled and 350 persons are standing in line on the counter, you call us and we be certain that you’re on the following flight,” Kristina Gear says. “We’re behind you each step of the best way.” She emphasizes that travel is an investment. “In the event you travel only every year or are taking the trip of a lifetime, why would you place it together yourself? We pride ourselves on ensuring the experience and value we bring is value someone’s money and time.” ¦ Within the KNOW Travel Suggestions · “If you might have something in your bucket list, do it sooner relatively than later. Don’t wait for tomorrow, just go.” — Jan Price · “Check the expiration in your passport. Many countries require that it’s valid for six months past the return date of your trip.” — Kristina Gear, partner and managing director, Preferred Travel · “Pack your patience and have the best mindset. In the event you start off considering ‘That is going to be the perfect trip’ and have speed bumps, and life is filled with speed bumps, but should you…

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