by Wendy Perrin
Twenty years of interviewing travel agents and tour operators for “The Perrin Report” and other Condé Nast Traveler articles has given me a well-thumbed directory of the most trusted insiders – people who offer the best combination of specialized knowledge (based on firsthand travel experience), local connections, user-friendliness, and value for your dollar.
Each year my team and I evaluate hundreds of new applicants to this list, and only a small number make the cut. Our recommended specialists have undergone a rigorous screening process that begins with a 47-question application with sample itineraries and client references, then continues with phone interviews and, in most cases, road-testing by Conde Nast Traveler staff. Those who unnecessarily book trips through pricey middlemen (as opposed to directly with local hotels and suppliers) or use on-site contacts that charge exorbitant rates are disqualified. Even so, the travel specialists who make the grade can be expensive...
Guy Rubin, Imperial Tours, Beijing
There’s no danger of being taken advantage of by the more pernicious elements of China’s tourism machine when you’re traveling under Rubin’s wing: no dining in Government-run restaurants, no shopping in sub-par state-run souvenir stores (most companies’ guides get kickbacks for steering travelers to them). That’s because all of Rubin’s clients are accompanied by a local guide and a Western escort. Although any snags are ironed out immediately by your at-hand troubleshooter, this means that you’re committed to traveling with an entourage—thus the steep price (888 888 1970).
©Sept 2009 Condé Nast Traveler