Wendy Perrin, who created the Top Travel Specialist List for Conde Nast Traveler, talked with Travel Weekly's Kate Rice about leaving Conde Nast and her new ventures: her role as TripAdvisor's first Travel Advocate and her travel website, WendyPerrin.com.
Q: What prompted you to start the Top Travel Specialist List?
A: So many travelers were reaching out to me asking who they should use for help with their trips. I would say "Call this person" or "contact this person" because I had a Rolodex of sources, many of whom were travel agents. That's the way the whole thing got started. I said, "Let's just publish my Rolodex, for God's sake, and save everyone a step!" It was never going to be an annual list.
Q: What do you think your greatest accomplishments at Conde Nast Traveler?
A: I was there 25 years. I did a lot of stuff. But I think one of the accomplishments was helping consumers have better trips by connecting them with the right human-being travel planners.
Q: What do you think the greatest challenge is for travel agents?
A: One challenge is letting the world know they still exist. A lot of travelers out there don't realize that human-being travel agents still exist. One challenge is to make sure the world understands the value that the travel agent adds that you can't get on your own.
Q: What's in agents' favor?
A: People are so bombarded by all the noise, all the information on the Web. If the travel agent can help filter out all that noise and help the consumer hone right in on what he or she needs, that's hugely valuable. And one more thing that travel agents have going for them are the benefits that they get through their consortia, the special offers, the special rates, the perks, early check-in, their relationships with the general managers or their contact at the cruise line. Those aren't offered through most of the online tools.
Q: You often use the term "travel planner" rather than "travel agent." Why?
A: The term "travel planner" encompasses more. I could use "travel helper" or "travel counselor" or "travel choreographer." The lines are totally blurred. If I tell you I'm talking about travel agents and tour operators and destination management companies, these are all outdated terms. That is why I'm trying not to use any of those terms with you and focus on what consumers need, which is travel help.
Q: Why TripAdvisor?
A: Because people use it and people love it. I know a lot of travel agents who go in there to read what travelers are saying. What I like about TripAdvisor is they're not going to try to influence what I write. They just want me to come in there and give the best information I can to their community.
Q: What will you do with WendyPerrin.com?
A: I wrote the Perrin Post blog for eight years, and what I do on my own site is going to be very similar: share travel tips; how to save time, money and hassle; and how to have more memorable and rewarding travel experiences. On top of that, I want to add a lot more. I have this dream about a great resource that I want to build that will benefit travelers. What shape that will take exactly I can't comment on right now. I have a lot of ideas.
Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.