For Jane Borman, arranging travel for clients is all about creating the "wow experiences," the once-in-a-lifetime activities and surprises they could never have arranged on their own.
Borman, a Travel Experts-affiliated agent from Scottsdale, Ariz., has turned her earlier experiences as a corporate incentive trip operator into a successful business selling luxury leisure travel. She now makes sure to "wow" her clients whenever she can, whether it's dinner in a castle's secret wine cave (with a performance by an opera singer) on one of her Unforgettable Tuscany group tours or a private veranda dinner accompanied by a harpist for a couple on their honeymoon.
"I want to create something you didn't know existed, surprise you with something you didn't know existed," she said. "We all know the basics are always there, but what can I do that you didn't know existed?"
Often, the travelers Borman can offer the most special experiences to are larger groups with some extra money to spend, especially families. She has also arranged several smaller group trips marketed for couples, like her Tuscany trips where travelers stay in a castle in Italy.
One of those Unforgettable Tuscany trips focused on many of the cultural aspects of the region. For instance, Borman arranged a welcome reception for the group in the form of a pizza party. A chef named Roberto made pizzas in a pizza oven that was more than 1,000 years old, she said, while a three-piece band played Italian songs.
To add a little something to the experience, Borman created and handed out songbooks filled with Italian songs made popular by Dean Martin, which had everyone singing and dancing in no time.
"That is more than just the pizza, you know what I mean? I just kept raising the bar on it," she said.
The same trip also featured the private dinner in the castle's wine cellar, a medieval celebration on the final night complete with a flag-throwing troop and several cultural activities like painting, photography and cooking classes.
Borman also arranged for items to be delivered to her clients' rooms almost every night. For instance, on the evening before they visited a vineyard, they received a bottle of wine made at the castle they were staying in.
She even arranged to have a flower cart on hand when guests first arrived at the castle so they could make their own floral arrangements to keep in their rooms.
"It's just making people feel like this is their home for the week," she said.
Borman offered some advice to fellow agents looking to create "wow experiences" of their own: Work with on-site contacts until you have a creative, unique experience you can offer your clients.
"Depending on how much time people have in a destination, you can dig deeper and do really cool stuff, so [agents] just have to ask questions with their operator," she said.
For instance, Borman was recently organizing a group tour to Sedona, Ariz., and wanted to create a memorable experience for them. She kept asking her on-the-ground contacts for an unusual idea until they settled on a truly unforgettable one: a sunset dinner on a mountain ledge overlooking a canyon.
"Just keep asking questions until you feel like you're getting that creative response from the on-site, and the thing is, in this business, we all love to get creative," she said.
Those on-the-ground collaborations include working with hotels in a destination to create something special, Borman said.
"My philosophy is everybody can sell the cruise, the package, etc., but because of my incentive experience, because I've been exposed to so much, I'm always trying to [figure out] what's the wow factor, what's that surprise," she said.
"I want to blow people away every chance I get."