With an international network of nearly two hundred travel advisors making up the SmartFlyer family, our team is seemingly working from anywhere across the globe at any given time.
Each journey chronicling how our Smarties were enveloped into the world of travel consulting is unique; and as we share stories from check-ins around the world, our collective passion for the travel industry and the impact we make on our clients’ lives only deepens. In this chat, we touched base with SmartFlyer Rising Star agent Tiffany Figueiredo who made the transition from her decades-long career as an award-winning writer to being a travel advisor in 2016.
In your former life, you worked as an editor of several luxury lifestyle publications. How did your background as a writer prepare you to dive into being a travel advisor?
When writing a story, journalists employ the “5 Ws and the H” — who, what, when, where, why and how, questions which also are vital to client queries! I often hear people asking for recommendations for the “best” hotel in a given city. But the “best” is different for each person. For me, advising clients means asking those questions and really getting to know clients’ needs as if I were writing a story on them, not a destination. That often means they end up somewhere completely different than where they initially thought they wanted to go.
You’re currently splitting your time between Texas and South Africa: how does having two home bases change your view of the world?
We google away and feel like we know a place, have a checklist of what we want to see, but the heartbeat of a place lies outside all of that.
Oh, it makes the world so small and vast at the same time! We are constantly connected by technology and have loads of information at our disposal. We google away and feel like we know a place, have a checklist of what we want to see, but the heartbeat of a place lies outside all of that. I’m constantly exploring Africa and the more I learn, the more there is to learn! It’s changed the way I advise my clients. Yes, I encourage seeing the sights and trying that famous restaurant, especially on a first visit, but let’s mix it up with some authentic local experiences, where maybe they’re the only Americans around. It’s always the people met in some offhand way — and realizing the ways in which we are both the same and different, which one remembers from traveling.
What do you love most about being able to make anywhere in the world your office?
The freedom to explore at the drop of a hat. I have a loose travel plan each year, but as advisors, we’re often invited to inspect and experience properties and destinations or attend conferences and it’s nice to have some flexibility for spontaneity if I think a trip will be beneficial to my business in some way. Travel is not only vital to my job, it grounds me on a deep level, so crossing states, countries and continents while I’m able to is a priority in my life.
The irony of being able to work from anywhere is that you are also prone to being plugged in all the time. How do you balance work and play, especially while getting to know Cape Town’s many treasures?
…I’ve never sent an out of office reply to an email, no matter where I am in the world.
It is a challenge! I’ve taken my laptop to lunchtime rugby games, scheduled client calls in the middle of the night and written proposals while everyone else was napping after a morning game drive. I’m an extremely organized and detailed person and I typically have a routine of rising early and working a few hours while the US sleeps, then seeing friends, having lunch or maybe visiting a new spot before heading back to wrap up anything that needs attention. I keep all of my clients’ itineraries in the SmartFlyer app on my phone so I know what’s going on at all times and I’ve never sent an out of office reply to an email, no matter where I am in the world. It’s a small price to pay for the experiences I get to have and as my clients are mostly traveling outside the US, I’m often on the same or similar time zones as suppliers, making for quicker answers. I do have a rather large cell phone bill as I’m available 24/7!
Seeing destinations and hotels first-hand is an integral part of staying on the cutting edge for your clients. How do you decide where to scout next?
My clients are amazingly adventurous! Their requests, likes, dislikes and wishes drive my travels. I also have my own wanderlist I’m working my way through and living part-time in South Africa means I have the opportunity to deep-dive into this continent I love, giving me an invaluable education and insight I think few agents have.
What destinations are being requested by your clients more than ever before? Anywhere unexpected?
Honestly, my clients are going everywhere. London is hot again, as are other spots in Europe as a result. One trend I’ve noticed recently is clients wanting to attend big-ticket events in other countries and building itineraries around them. I just had clients attend Oktoberfest in Munich and we added beautiful experiences in Austria and Switzerland after. I have several families attending next year’s summer Olympics in Tokyo and other clients going to the Australian Open and exploring Bora Bora and New Zealand while they’re down under. This is such a fun way to experience a country.
You obviously have a knack for research. Tell us more about your process when planning a trip for a client to a destination that’s a bit more under-the-radar. Where are you finding out about the best properties, restaurants and unique experiences on the ground?
My journalistic skills definitely come into play when I’m sussing out the best for my clients. I use every resource available, from following blogs and pages that align with my values and style to subscribing to industry intel newsletters and travel magazines. Most of my friends are journalists, travel industry people or frequent travelers. I’m constantly taking note of what they’re doing and typically know someone somewhere who I can reach out to. I find my travel partners and fellow agents to be so open to sharing ideas. We all love travel and get very excited and chatty about it!
Tell us about the last place you visited that took your breath away.
Botswana! I’ve seen many stunning and dramatic landscapes in my life, but there is something about Botswana’s lush watercolor-like blues and greens and the rich, abundant game and warm, beautiful people that stole my heart. It’s a magical place that I hope to return to again and again.
Contact Tiffany to begin planning your next adventure.