Tag Archives: global travel summit

Group shot at the WOW Travel Summit.

Takeaways and Photos from our 4th WOW Travel Summit

Our mission is to keep raising the bar on travel experiences, so that WOW trips just keep getting better.  One way we do this is by gathering together every few years with the Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List for brainstorming, problem solving, and innovating. That’s what our WOW Travel Summits are all about.

Our 4th WOW Travel Summit happened earlier this month, when Wendy, Kristine, Florie, Hannah, and I gathered with our WOW Listers in Oslo, Norway. These experts carved out time in their busy calendars and flew to our chilly but beautiful Summit headquarters, the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel, from as far away as Thailand, New Zealand, and Mauritius.

The sunset outside the summit conference room.

During a Summit break, WOW Listers captured the sunset outside the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel.

The unique brain trust in our meeting room combined expertise in travel across all seven continents with a collective mission to continue making WOW trips more and more wow—“pushing the limits of extraordinary,” in Wendy’s words.

This year’s Summit was a particularly special one, as our last gathering took place just on the cusp of Covid, in January 2020. The trip planners in the room this time around were the ones who had survived—and thrived—in spite of a worldwide pandemic, the subsequent head-spinning return to travel, and the inflation and conflicts that have since affected many parts of the globe. So there was time for celebration, from our opening-night cocktail party to toasts of aquavit after a festive dinner of reindeer with beets and root vegetables—and even a lucky glimpse of the northern lights, a rarity in Oslo.

Jennifer Virgilio, Wendy Perrin, and Maria Landers at Summit cocktail party.
Wendy with WOW Listers Jennifer Virgilio and Maria Gabriella Landers.
Florie Korani, Brook Wilkinson, and Sarah Farag at Summit cocktail party.
Florie, Brook, and WOW Lister Sarah Farag.
Zach Rabinor, Irene Edwards, and Rachael Wilson before dinner.
WOW Listers Zach Rabinor, Irene Edwards, and Rachael Wilson.
Stuart Rigg, Cherri Briggs, Sarah Farag, and Stefano Sancassani
WOW Listers Stuart Rigg, Cherri Briggs, and Sarah Farag, and WOW List deputy Stefano Sancassani.
Sheri Doyle, Greg Tepper, Gwen Kozlowski, and Melissa Ladvala before dinner.
WOW Listers Sheri Doyle, Greg Tepper, and Gwen Kozlowski, and WOW List candidate Melissa Ladvala.
A table shot at dinner.
Talking travel over dinner at the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel.
Reindeer and root vegetables for dinner.
The main course—reindeer with roasted root vegetables.
Wendy is served a Scandinavian specialty, aquavit.
Jennifer Virgilio and her team at dinner.
Jennifer Virgilio and her team of deputies have helped many of you design trips to Italy, France, and England.
Northern Lights glimpsed from outside the hotel.
A rare sighting of the northern lights over Oslo.


During the Summit, the WendyPerrin.com team shared recent trends we’ve discerned from the trip requests we receive every day. A sampling:

  • New Zealand and Australia are the top two countries so far for 2024 trips, followed by Egypt. Morocco also made the top 10, showing that our savvy travelers trust our network of local fixers to keep them safe amid disasters both natural and human-made.
  • October, June, and May are our travelers’ favorite months to travel. They wisely opt for “shoulder-season” periods over the peak pricing and crowds of summer.
  • More and more, our travelers are seeking out active experiences that help them engage directly with locals. They often travel to celebrate a milestone, such as a special birthday or anniversary, or a high-school or college graduation.
Daniel Fraser at the WOW Travel Summit
WOW Lister Dan Fraser.
Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Lister Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui.
Irene Edwards, Patricia Johnson, and Allie Almario at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Listers Irene Edwards, Patricia Johnson, and Allie Almario.
Goncalo Correia at the WOW Travel Summit
WOW Lister Gonçalo Correia.
Torunn Tronsvang at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Lister Torunn Tronsvang.


As a number of Trusted Travel Experts shared how they’ve continued to raise the bar for WOW trips, a theme crystallized: While A.I. and other technology can streamline certain simple tasks, nothing will replace the human touch essential to designing one-of-a-kind, custom-tailored trips:

  • Ecuador and Galapagos specialist Allie Almario talked about how the little details of a traveler’s hobbies and personal taste—a love of yellow roses, say—that she picks up during her first conversation with them spark inspiration when she’s crafting WOW Moments.
  • Morocco specialist Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui described how he empowers local guides to pivot, problem-solve, and enhance travel experiences on the spot.
  • Southeast Asia specialist Daniel Fraser has built connections with remote temples and schools that now host his travelers for memorable, off-the-beaten-path meals beside monks and students.
  • Sri Lanka specialist Miguel Cunat logged many miles on foot as he personally developed a new multi-day walking trail across the country, bringing new opportunities to underserved rural communities.
  • Portugal specialist Gonçalo Correia explained how he’s managed to buck the trend of rising prices in southern Europe by constantly uncovering new, more affordable hotels, unusual local guides, and off-limits-to-the-public experiences that deliver top value.
The explorer Børge Ousland

Polar explorer Børge Ousland described his latest adventure: creating a travel destination in the middle of nowhere.

World-renowned explorer Børge Ousland regaled the group with stories of his impressive exploits: He’s the first person to have completed solo, unsupported journeys across Antarctica and to the North Pole, but his latest achievement is thoughtfully designing and building (sometimes as a one-man construction crew) Manshausen, a remarkable resort on a remote private island in northern Norway, with glass-fronted cabins that let in sweeping views of the sea—and sometimes the northern lights.

Kevin Roberts from Cranky Concierge

Kevin Roberts from Cranky Concierge talked airline trends for 2024.

Kevin Roberts, from flight-booking service Cranky Concierge, joined us to share a host of new routes; you’ll find these new nonstops to smaller European cities, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia in Nonstop Flights to Make Your Travels Easier.  He also shared his perspective on when to book flights—the upside in holding out for a lower price is usually smaller than the potential downside of higher fares and fewer seats—and a strategy to fend off the inevitable airline delays and cancellations these days: Get as close to your destination as you can, as quickly as you can. In other words, if you’re flying to Poland and have to connect somewhere, do it in Europe rather than in the U.S.

We are deeply grateful to WOW Lister Torunn Tronsvang, who tirelessly worked her connections in Norway to make this Summit happen. I lost count of the number of WOW List trip-planning experts who told me how energized they were by the knowledge shared at the Summit, and how many new ideas they’d be bringing back to their offices. Here’s to even more extraordinary trips in 2024 and beyond!

The wendyperrin.com team at the Christmas Market in Oslo.

After the Summit, the WendyPerrin.com team unwound at Oslo’s Christmas market.



Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Zita Cobb and Wendy Perrin at the World Travel Summit 2016.

This Is How We Make Your Trips Better: Our Global Travel Summit

From Sunday through Tuesday (Jan 26 – 28), Wendy, Brook, Jill, Neil, and I will gather in New York City to host our 3rd Global Travel Summit.  The Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List are convening from all corners of the globe, and we’re excited about it because it’s one of the most effective opportunities we get to connect with them—face-to-face—and reinforce the gold standard of quality that our readers expect from them.

As you may have seen, earlier this week we announced The 2020 WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts—Wendy’s rigorously vetted collection of the world’s best trip designers. But our oversight doesn’t stop just because the List has been published. In addition to closely monitoring reader reviews, Wendy and Brook are in frequent email and phone communication with our 100-plus WOW Listers throughout the year.  Then we all gather in one place for our Global Travel Summit to hear from the Trusted Travel Experts (TTEs) first-hand about travel trends, news, and any changes at their destinations that might affect you and your trip planning. We review how the TTEs think, how they communicate, and how their systems and processes work, so that we can help you collaborate with them better. We also share with them what we’ve learned from you: the biggest travel-planning challenges you cite, your biggest pet peeves, and the kinds of experiences that mean the most to you. That way,  they can create and deliver the unforgettable travel experiences you dream about.

When WOW List TTEs see a WendyPerrin.com trip request in their inbox, they know that traveler is a VIP, and they want to do their best to exceed your expectations. Brainstorming and sharing ideas at our WOW List Summit is one of the many ways they—and we—ensure they can do that. Here are a few photos from our previous summits, and we look forward to sharing more insight with you next week.

Maria Gabriella Landers and Joe Yudin

From left: Jonathan Epstein, Maita Barrenechea, Natalie Ewing, Zachary Rabinor

Andrea Ross

Allie Almario

Meg Austin and Cranky Flier Brett Snyder



Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know. 

pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

Where Was the WendyPerrin.com Team Last Week?

This year’s Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit was held at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort, a beachfront all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The large complex consists of three sections (Zen, Ambassador, and the adults-only Grand Class), and we got to experience all of them, along with the resort’s eight restaurants and its spa. Lest you think we were slacking off amid all these palm trees and decadent meals, rest assured that we didn’t spend more than a few minutes at the beach. Contrary to the vacation vibe of the photos below we actually spent all our time working with the Trusted Travel Experts of the newly announced 2017 WOW List to make your next trips even better. But thanks to invigorating panel discussions with our extended team, and the hospitality of the Grand Velas staff, this busy weekend was still a lot of fun.

Here’s a tour of what Wendy, Brook, Jill, and I saw, did, and ate while we were there.

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

The first night, we all stayed in the Zen building, which has no beach access and is set amid the mangroves. Even though Zen has the smallest rooms of the resort, they are still quite large, have big bathrooms, and boast outdoor patios overlooking plenty of greenery. Tip for families: There are more connecting rooms in this building, and the kids’ club is here (a teen club is located in the Ambassador section).

Grand Velas Riviera Maya hat and basket Mexico

A big floppy sunhat and a pretty woven beach basket. Now if only I had time to lay out on the beach. Photo: Billie Cohen

The resort has plenty of the usuals when it comes to amenities: L’Occitane soaps and shampoos, loofahs, and a free mini bar (this is an all-inclusive after all). But the perks I was most surprised by were the beautiful woven sun hats and beach bags. Handmade nearby in Leon, Mexico, out of 100% cotton coated with resins and enamels, the glam hat has a super wide and wavy brim—very helpful for keeping the sun out of your eyes and any paparazzi at bay. The hats are complimentary for VIP guests and those staying in Presidential Suites; the bags are in every room and are free to use during your stay. Both are available for purchase at the resort’s boutiques.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya cenote Mexico

A real cenote was incorporated into the hotel’s grounds. It’s now fed by an irrigation system and swimming is not allowed. Photo: Billie Cohen

The rooms are accessed via a raised, covered wooden walkway that makes you feel like you’re deep in the quiet jungle. There’s even a restored ancient cenote (though you can’t swim in it).

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

You’re not too remote from the resort’s amenities, of course—a few minutes’ walk takes you to a very pretty multi-level pool, the casual restaurant Chaká, or the spa. A shuttle van zooms guests over to the beach (maybe four minutes away), and it was our experience that we never had to wait more than a minute or two for a ride.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya herb garden in Mexico

Mint, verbana, and other herbs for the resort’s restaurants are grown right here. Photo: Billie Cohen

The hotel grows its own herbs for use in its various restaurants. Stroll along a path that winds past the Zen pool and you’ll find a miniature-golf course and a greenhouse.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips. Photo: Tim Baker

Zen is also where the conference center is located and where we spent most of our time. The resort hosts many weddings too.

grand class suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

Wendy’s Grand Class suite. Photo: Wendy Perrin

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

The view beyond Wendy’s laptop, at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Ambassador and Grand Class are the resort’s two beachfront buildings; the main difference is that Grand Class is adults-only and the rooms are slightly bigger and have private plunge pools. But the Ambassador pool is the largest pool; it has many chaise longues, some in the sun and some comfortably under palapas. White-shirted servers wander around making sure you have drinks and snacks, and the Azul restaurant (which hosts a huge breakfast buffet) is on the left in the above photo.

colored rice in shape of WendyPerrin.com logo at grand velas riviera maya hotel Mexico

I came back to my room one night to find our website’s logo, made out of rice! Photo: Billie Cohen

Knowing who we were and why were there, the resort staff went out of their way to make us happy, with surprises like this one: our logo made out of colored rice that showed up on the beds one evening, and our logo on the telephone screens. But even random staffers I passed in random hallways stopped what they were doing to say “buenos dias” or help me figure out where I was going.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Bistro food, Mexico

Even a simple vegetarian sandwich with fries was delivered to our table like a work of art. Photo: Billie Cohen

Guests can eat at any of the eight restaurants on site, ranging from the casual buffet of Azul to the AAA four-diamond, French-influenced menu of Piaf. Tip: Wine and cocktails are included in your room rate (though some wines and liquors cost extra), and so is room service…which tastes even better when eaten on your beachfront terrace.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Frida restaurant Mexico

Named after the artist Frida Kahlo, the Mexican-themed restaurant Frida does pretty well in the art department itself. Photo: Billie Cohen

All of the restaurants have two things in common. First, as soon as you sit down, a server will ask about any food allergies so that the chefs can customize your meal (and they did a good job of this; I am vegetarian with several food sensitivities, and I ate pretty well). Second, all of the food presentation is just beautiful. The chefs here take the “eat with your eyes first” mantra very seriously, and plates were artfully composed and then decorated with swoops, drizzles, and dots. Not that any of that beauty kept us from eating. The food was sometimes fussy (and the multi-course, molecular-gastronomy tasting menu of Cocina de Autor was hit or miss) but, for the most part, the food was very good.

taco and tequila tasting on the beach at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

Right around sunset, the hotel arranged a tequila and taco tasting on the beach. It was a nice way to end our summit. Photo: Billie Cohen

Over the course of the weekend, we had the chance to experience a few special activities that the resort can arrange for guests or groups. One was what they call “Picnic in Paradise,” a gourmet lunch on the beach—but it rained the day ours was scheduled, so all the charcuterie, sandwiches, and cakes were moved to a presidential suite. We did get to experience a taco-and-tequila tasting on the beach, however: a sprawling buffet of savory Mexican treats, including grasshoppers, and a table each of tequilas and mezcals. This was a hit.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is designed to look like a cenote. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

Brook tested out the spa. She reported back that the private men’s and women’s sections of the spa were designed to look like a cenote, the water-filled sinkholes that this part of Mexico is known for.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson Photo: Brook Wilkinson

She took the spa’s signature “water journey.” Recommended as a complimentary service before any spa treatment, starts with a circuit of showers, saunas, and steam rooms.

The spa hot tubs at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

“The water journey ends with plunges in the side-by-side hot and cold jetted tubs,” Brook reported back. “The better to get your muscles primed for that massage.”

ocean view from a suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

View from Wendy’s balcony. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.