Meet Tom Carr! He’s been a bold innovator in the travel industry since 1998, when he founded one of the first and most successful online travel sites – focused exclusively on all-inclusive vacations.
After he sold that business, he launched a new travel venture last year.
His current role as President and CEO of PreferredVacations.com taps the breadth of his expertise and experience in the field of travel.
GettingOnTravel was delighted to speak to Tom about this new endeavor, which is likely to appeal to the over-50 luxury traveler.
GOT: We think of you as the “all-inclusive” guy. How did you first get involved in the travel sphere?
Tom: My introduction to international travel was a honeymoon cruise on the Carnival Mardi Gras in 1988. I was instantly intrigued by the opportunity to explore new destinations and cultures. Following our honeymoon, my wife and I scraped together enough funds to sail twice on the now-defunct Dolphin Cruise Lines. We enjoyed cruising and meeting new people on each voyage.
Soon after, a college friend convinced us to try a then-new concept: an all-inclusive land-based vacation. We ended up following his advice and ventured off to Jamaica for a stay at Sandals Ocho Rios Resort.
Wow! The all-inclusive vacation was an amazing invention. As they say in Jamaica, “No pressure, no problem.”
For a young couple starting out, it was comforting to know the total costs of our vacation before leaving home; we could indulge as much as we wanted and didn’t have to worry about the expense. And that discovery led to my travel career.
After a couple of years of trying to acquire a position within the Sandals organization (with no experience in the travel industry), I started my own online travel company, All Inclusive Outlet (in 1998), at the recommendation of a friend I’d met at Air Jamaica Vacations. We started with around 15 all-inclusive resorts in our niche market and grew rapidly.
Over the years, as the all-inclusive concept evolved, our product line grew to include over 375 resorts. I lost count but I’ve visited the Caribbean and Mexico at least 200 times as a result of our focus on that region. I once stayed at 6 different all-inclusive resorts in 7 nights!
GOT: How did you switch gears?
Tom: As the business grew, it became apparent our clients were interested in many destinations that didn’t offer all-inclusive packages. Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Europe, Asia and other locales weren’t viable options for an “all inclusive company.” As a result, our clients were booking those trips elsewhere.
When an opportunity arose to sell my company, I decided it was time to move in a different direction. After a brief hiatus devoted to research and planning, I began developing PreferredVacations.com to be positioned in the luxury travel niche, with an emphasis on creating unique, local experiences.
Thinking back, this was pretty much a seamless progression for me.
Even when we were staying at all-inclusive resorts, my most memorable moments came when I was out and about, mixing with locals.
The most authentic experiences happen when you allow yourself to experience the new and unknown.
GOT: What is a Preferred Vacation?
Tom: The vacations we offer at PreferredVacations.com encourage authentic exploration of a destination. We want to showcase what every island, city or country has to offer that makes it unique. We provide a high level of personalized service, along with customization, to ensure a memorable luxury getaway whether it’s for a solo traveler, couple, family or larger group.
We’re not just a booking engine. We’re committed to developing relationships with our clients.
GOT: You use the term “curated” in describing Preferred Vacations. What does that mean?
Tom: Because each of our clients is unique – their vacations should also be personalized. Based on a client’s desired destination, timing and budget, a PreferredVacations travel curator is assigned to guide them through every aspect of the journey and help them make the best possible choices.
We aim to know our clients and their travel styles so we can address every detail of their travel, and avoid any hassles or disappointments.
This week, for example, I discovered one of our clients had a long career in movie production. Since he was interested in a split-island stay in Hawaii and one of his destinations was on Oahu, I suggested he visit the Kualoa Ranch, where over 50 movies and TV shows were filmed. One of his favorite TV shows had been filmed there, and he couldn’t wait to visit the set. His response was priceless!
GOT: What kind of upcharge can travelers expect for this individualized attention?
Tom: While a number of luxury travel companies charge for their services, our goal is to develop relationships and grow through referrals from satisfied clients. So we offer concierge-like travel consultation on a complimentary basis, specializing in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Alaska and Europe. Because cruising is so popular with boomers, we also offer both ocean and river cruising journeys.
GOT: What would your top recommendations be for the active traveler who wants to stay busy?
Tom: Maui is amazing! Even if you’ve already been there, it’s still easy to find a range of things to do, such as hiking, snorkeling, surfing, sailing, whale-watching, biking, snuba, scuba, beachcombing, horseback riding and helicopter, botanical garden and historical tours. For foodies, there are tons of options for dining and cocktails, along with shopping experiences. You can also take a catamaran to the nearby island of Lanai for a tour of the old Dole Plantation and Lanai City.
Italy is very popular right now, too. Customized packages that include Florence, Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast (or some combination of them) are sure to keep the active traveler engaged.
GOT: What about travelers who are so busy that all they want to do on vacation is relax and self-indulge?
Tom: Tahiti and Fiji would be two of our top recommendations. What’s better than an over-the-water bungalow set over the pristine waters of these South Pacific Islands?
For something closer to the U.S. mainland, I recommend the more exclusive locales in the Caribbean, perhaps Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands or one of the high-end luxury resorts on Anguilla.
GOT: Any thoughts about the perfect vacation for the luxury solo traveler over 50?
Tom: That’s an interesting question! My spouse is only able to travel once or twice a year, so I made the choice to venture out solo over the last 20 years. As a travel professional, there are many places I want to experience firsthand and I enjoy traveling solo. (Of course, I love traveling with my wife, too!)
So what’s the perfect vacation for the luxury solo traveler? I don’t have the perfect place, but I have a little twist on this one – one that’s on my list, so to speak. One of our suppliers recently introduced us to Me To We, a social enterprise that arranges volunteer travel in places like Kenya and Ecuador. Talk about an experience! It’s enriching travel that brings cultures together, one that’s very solo-friendly, offering tented cottages or lodges with all the amenities.
As an outgoing person, one of my challenges when traveling solo is finding people to interact with. At some point, you just want to have a conversation with someone else and share your experience. With Me To We, it’s like having a family waiting for you. At the same time, you can make a difference in your world and their community.
GOT: We just have to ask: What’s your favorite luxury all-inclusive?
Tom: Grand Velas Resorts! They have the highest level of luxury that I’ve seen… but if you have the time and can afford the trip, the Brando on Tetiaroa Island in French Polynesia is considered the most luxurious and exotic all-inclusive in the world.
GOT: And one last question, why would an over-50 luxury traveler “prefer” a “Preferred Vacation?”
Tom: When you’re speaking to a Preferred Vacations luxury travel curator/consultant, you’ll be talking with someone who is also over 50. We speak your language and understand your generation. We value service and relationships, and are committed to planning authentic and exceptional travel experiences.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- Visit PreferredVacations.com or call 1-877-415-8987
*Photo credits: Carnival Mardi Gras, Wikipedia, René Beauchamp | Luxury Anguilla resort, Zemi Beach Resort & Spa
This sponsored post was supported by Preferred Vacations.