O: Having had such a diverse upbringing, which part of exploring new cultures excites you the most in a new country?
Carmen: I am Cuban born but was raised in the U.S., and grew up with the stories of the paradise that was wrecked and left behind. Ironically, I didn’t leave the U.S. until my 40’s and I know immigrants in the U.S. from so many countries. So travel for me is partially a way to explore all the “lost paradises” that people have come from or in some cases, gone to.
O: What are the most vital elements to making travel luxurious?
Carmen: Luxury travel for me means a facility that has both the desire and the means to provide a superior experience for their guests. The reality about travel is that while it’s exciting, it can be difficult sleeping in different rooms and beds. With luxury travel, each hotel is a thrilling experience with comfort, beauty, and attention to the guest’s experience.
O: After a decade of indulging in opulent travel, do you prefer an experience that has been curated for you or do you like to have more control over your trip?
Carmen: In most cases, I prefer to have more of a curated trip, although having some input is often useful. To organize a trip properly requires significant research in advance and someone familiar with the city and its highlights. However, I really appreciate when they ask questions like how much walking do I want to do, how long do I want to spend looking at certain sites, and so forth.
O: What have you observed as the latest trends in luxury travel?
Carmen: I’d remark on a few trends, some contradictory. I have found that luxury travel used to isolate travelers from any local flavor but recently, they’ve provided increased access to local culture. I’ve also noticed an increasing number of extremely upscale resort hotels, which provide a very luxurious cosmopolitan experience, which is totally detached from its location. With the National Geographic Tour through Israel, there was a distinctly educational aspect of the tour, which also seems to be a growing trend.
O: Think back to your first decadent trip- how has luxury travel changed between then and now?
Carmen: Hotels seem to have realized that in addition to upscale furnishings and dramatic sites, they also have to deliver consistently superior service and comfort. My husband’s pet peeve for instance is whether hotels make it easy for him to plug his phone in at night next to the bed. Like everyone, he uses his phone as his alarm and needs to charge it at night. It used to be that luxury hotels did not have an easy way to access on each side of the bed. Recently, the number of hotel rooms that require moving furniture or leaving the phone across the room have dwindled.
O: How do you go about choosing your next destination?
Carmen: Like Dr Doolittle, I just take a pencil and an atlas, close my eyes, open the atlas, and point the pencil. Well, not really but I’ve always been charmed by those books and the whimsy of how he chose his next location. Really, I start with a list of places I’d like to see or go back to, and then see what destinations are open to working with me. In addition I consider locations my traveling companions (hopefully my husband) want to go.
O: What does Rethink Luxury mean to you?
Carmen: For me, the future of luxury is not in ever-bigger rooms or more extravagant furnishings. It’s about attention to comfort details and providing staff with the expertise and motivation to really help guests navigate their travel experience.