We travel so we know where to go and what to do. One thing we have always tried to do differently is to travel in order to experience and learn where to go and what to do while there. We have also generally stayed away from travel agent FAM trips and instead, travel the way our clients would while not being dictated by any one entity.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Alder.

As the first travel advisor to jetset during COVID and spend the majority of lockdown exploring the hidden wonders of the world, luxury travel agency Jonathan’s Travels’ founder and CEO Jonathon Alder has planned 30,000+ trips for over 100,000 people to date, visited 72 countries across 7 continents and has flown in every major airline’s First Class cabin. Serving as a trusted resource on some of the world’s best kept travel secrets and under-the-radar experiences, Jonathan is an expert on a wide variety of destinations including Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Turkey, Egypt, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Asia, French Polynesia, African Safaris and luxury Disney World getaways among many others.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

To start off, it’s really nice to meet you and I’m thrilled to be a part of this with Authority magazine.

I have always had a deep love of travel Which goes back to the time of even two or three years old heading off with my mom and my grandparents to Las Vegas. Even at that age, I still have great memories of exploring hotels, fun attractions, and seeing the sights. The next big moment I can remember that really shaped who I am in the travel world was my first trip to Disney World. Exploring Epcot and walking through small versions of each country showcased there really made me want to see so much more. When I was 12, we took my first trip to Europe, specifically England and Scotland. This was such an amazing experience that shaped my life in all ways including my first time roaming around a European capital on my own. Since we were traveling in more moderate fashions, it really influenced who I would become in life in the travel business as I knew this wasn’t the style I wanted to stick with even from such a young age. I remember getting on the plane and seeing first and business class and wondering why we’re going back to coach, from that moment on I knew luxury travel was where I wanted to go in life. In 1994 the Northridge earthquake hit Los Angeles and my life was totally disrupted. We moved to Arizona, which we quickly realized was not somewhere at that time we wanted to be. In my spare time, I started really focusing on studying the business of travel as much as the actual art of traveling. I was sure I wanted to own a travel agency. We started traveling more and more in truly exceptional ways by seeing and discovering the world in the best ways possible — thus, starting my life in luxury travel. Fast forward many years later, and my mom was sadly passing away from breast cancer. I had been working with her company by running the business side of our therapy contracting company and knew I needed a change. I reached out to my old travel agent, let her know what was going on and she told me to come and apply with TravelStore. From that point on starting out as a newcomer, my travel expertise came into play and over the last 13 years Jonathan’s Travels has become what it is today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I want to start this off by saying the suppliers we work with are amazing people and are incredibly trustworthy but every now and then something can happen. This is regarding two clients that were in Cambodia, whose driver called out sick and — without letting anyone know — asked his friend to fill in as a driver. Already there are so many problems here, but what was worse is this friend did not know where they were going. I can still remember exactly where I was driving when I received a phone call with them hysterically telling me they were lost in the jungles of Cambodia, and no one knew how to get out. I was on the phone with them and the head of the tour operator for around six hours until they were directed out. Today these clients and I still laugh about this in actuation, but that time was slightly scary.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There have been so many, but one that stands out and taught me a hard lesson about not working when I’m very tired, is when I ticketed everyone in the same family under one person’s name. When the family got to the airport, everyone was listed as one person, so it looked like that one had the seats for four. Of course, we corrected this quickly but for a moment the person at the check-in counter assumed this one person wanted four seats.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I totally agree with that statement 100%. There are so many, not just one person that has helped me along the way. While we are now very much our own individual brand, when I started we were very much a part of TravelStore. The company had absolutely helped me get to where I am today and we are still affiliated with them, especially for our back office. Katie Cadar, Robbie Hanna, and Linda Lockner all played a big part of who I am as a travel agent today.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

We have always tried to do things differently and help shape the travel industry along the way. When I started, the industry was very much a 9–5, Monday through Friday business with work being divvied up to assistants with (at best) an after-hours service for support. I didn’t think this was satisfactory or would truly work, especially when dealing with a luxury market. Being a travel agent is very much a relationship business and you can’t have the relationship only during business hours. Understanding that our clients also have very busy work lives, they frequently have time to discuss their travels either in the mornings or in the evenings after work or on weekends. This doesn’t mean giving up every minute of personal time, but it’s very much a balance and being there for our clients when they need us. They have to know they can reach us personally and have that peace of mind that we are there for them when something goes wrong. No matter how well travel is planned, a travel agent needs to be there for their client to cover those unforeseen circumstances and that is something we feel we excel in. We also focus on efficiency. When I first started, you would see piles of papers on agents’ desks, cumbersome software to use for tracking — none of which gained anything but instead took hours of the day and left mountains of paperwork in its trail. Jonathan’s Travels has taken everything electronic and mobile so no matter where we are (in bed, in the car, or at the desk), we have everything we need to help our clients in time of need. I do not and have never had one notebook or file, and yet we keep track of all our clients’ activities nearly flawlessly.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

I really hope this new way of doing business in the travel world helps to streamline the industry as a whole. Things should be simple and not overly complicated; therefore, allowing fast response times which for us is generally under an hour and frequently just within minutes. When someone needs us, we are always there and never backlogged. To me, efficiency is everything in the travel world. Even when planning a complicated flight itinerary, the goal is to look for the most efficient route to do it in. Our business is just the same as that.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

COVID absolutely did change the travel world, though not always in the ways that we would have expected. Initially, I was expecting to see far more permanent precautions but it has gone quite the opposite direction and crowds have significantly boomed, which I was expecting. The more people are held back in life the more there will be an opposite reaction, but I don’t think the travel world was ready for such a great influx. For us, we have never been busier — especially on the luxury end, and that has been the strongest growth market. I’m noticing most planes are full in the front but can be wide open as you get towards the back. Luxury and higher net worth travelers are absolutely traveling in droves that the world has never seen before. This is such an exciting time as the travel world is being pushed to newer, higher and better levels of product across the board. The downside is that post COVID, prices have skyrocketed and so a fewer part of the world is able to travel. So many people had saved up over the time they were at home so there are many people that hadn’t travelled before in ways of luxury that are now doing so and I don’t think there will ever be a way to go back. Due to all of this, the industry has had to struggle with service qualities as hotels, cruises and tour operators have had to not only struggle to get the staff back that they let go of, but to get more staff members that could also match the quality that the traveler of today now expects.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

Wow that’s a hard one. I’m a firm believer in no vacation is absolutely perfect, as there are so many right answers for this just depending on what an individual mood is. I am always a firm believer in balance and love nothing more than a wonderful heavy touring culture trip finished off with some beautiful days at a beach resort. This way giving the best of all worlds what I like to refer to as “travel separate than vacation.” I always say that travel is where you learn and grow, while vacation is where you rest and relax. Both are great, especially when in balance together. Great examples of this could be exploring Sri Lanka or India followed by a week in the Maldives at a spectacular overwater bungalow or jaunting through the capitals of Europe and the countryside and ending at a spa in Switzerland.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Absolutely. The vacation part of travel can be so many things for so many people. For some, that’s laying on the most perfect beach and for others it might be a dedicated spa getaway. Right before COVID hit, I was able to explore the most spectacular spa experience in the foothills of the Himalayas right near where yoga was born. Sending a client somewhere like this where they can connect with their inner self focusing on daily meditation, yoga, ayurvedic treatments and so much more is a vital part of travel. We love to book and create wellness trips to places worldwide where our clients can find time to escape the world and reconnect.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

The five things that I think makes people keep coming back for more in terms of travel experiences: 1. Over the top and amazing memories — especially those found by exploring amazing cultures. We try to focus on touring as what you do more than anything else, while traveling is what really creates the memories of a vacation. An amazing hotel certainly is part of it, but so is a great airline experience, and nothing counts more than what you do day to day. We spend our time researching and finding the best guides in every location which, along with some amazing special moments, helps create the perfect travel experience. My favorite story is about my client taking her mother to Italy. Her mother was an art professor and especially loved history. We arranged a special visit to the Vatican that not only included the libraries not seen by the public, but also entry into the archbishop’s office to see the letter that King Henry the eighth wrote divorcing The United Kingdom from the church.

2. Being there for our clients and letting them know we are here for them. While this is amazing for our clients, it also means we haven’t had a holiday off in a very long time. We want our clients to know they can enjoy their travels and not stressing what they will do if something goes wrong — they know we are one text or call away no matter what. We have received so many calls with a client in the airport in the middle of the night that are so happy that we answered immediately as they just missed their connection and didn’t know what to do. We are nearly always able to get that rectified, and I have them back on their way in no time.

3. Creating special moments. This could be a photo session out in the beaches of Turkey or a surprise vow renewal in Ireland — minister and all. Our business is creating memories for a lifetime, and we love the opportunity to create those moments.

4. Go above and beyond but never over-clutter. There is so much focus on apps and online itineraries. We think differently. This is a human business, and the connection is the priority while the extras take away from that. We provide an air and hotel itinerary plus one from any supplier, which we always spend time reviewing with the client and answering all questions along the way. No matter how much is on paper, what is discussed will always be what sticks and prevents problems during travel.

5. We travel so we know where to go and what to do. One thing we have always tried to do differently is to travel in order to experience and learn where to go and what to do while there. We have also generally stayed away from travel agent FAM trips and instead, travel the way our clients would while not being dictated by any one entity.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We have tried our best to help promote responsible travel. Whether through promoting and supporting carbon neutral programs, eco-friendly resorts, charitable projects, or supporting smaller and lesser-known travel destinations that are really trying to increase tourism and need it for their local communities. In the industry, we have tried to promote learning and mentorship as much as possible.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are huge supporters of environmentally sustainable travel. Especially focusing on new forms of biofuels to replace the current carbon base the planes run on now. Eco-travel and luxury travel can easily coexist, and a prime example is the Brando in French Polynesia. They demonstrate that the resort can be 100% carbon free while still providing luxury and even fantastic air conditioning just using new methods. We would love to be at the forefront of promoting an eco-luxury market.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @jonathanstravels

Facebook: @jonathanstravels

Tik Tok: @jonathanstravels

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLCHe coaches cancer survivors and ambitious industry leaders to amplify their impact, attract media attention, and make their voice heard. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset.

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.