It’s one thing to be the founder and head honcho of your business and your household (as in the Mama) it’s another when the two worlds collide thus producing a very incorporated corporation.Â That’s what happened with Elizabeth Thorp, the brains behind travel agency and Virtuoso affiliate Poshbrood.Â By using innovation, technology, experience, writing talent and relationships Elizabeth created a service focused-business.Â Incidentally, last year I was on a Virgin America flight from IAD to LAX with the Thorp family, just randomly, so I immediately felt confident in my airline choice knowing the travel expert had booked the same one.
Elizabeth literally is all over the map, so we were quite fortunate to be able to catch her in between globe trotting in her Washington DC home base.Â She had just returned from a trip to St. Lucia and is getting ready to jet off again.Â I must remember to pack myself in her suitcase ….
Pamela’s Punch:Â Give us the quick and dirty on your background.
Elizabeth Thorp: I’m from Chicago originally, went to boarding school in CT and college in PA and have been in DC since moving here after graduation 20 years ago! Until the launch of Poshbrood, I was firmly entrenched in PR and public affairs — working at Porter Novelli for 7 years, running the corporate, PR and celebrity outreach for the Hearing Health Foundation, managing strategic alliances for a Democratic lobby shop. All the while was a travel freelancer but after starting EDT Communications in 2006, was able to do more of it.
PP: Tell us how Poshbrood, which you founded in 2010 began?
ET: While researching luxury family travel for a story a couple of years ago, I realized there was a dearth of resources recommending upscale travel options for parents. At the urging of friends who I had given travel and hotel recommendations to for their families, I decided to use the treasure trove of tips on fantastic family hotels, resorts and villas I had collected while researching stories for MomLogic.com, Huffington Post, Washingtonian, and Niche Mediaâ€™s Capitol File magazine to fill the gap. I wanted Poshbrood to combine the style of Daily Candy with the insiderâ€™s knowledge of BlackBook and the irreverence of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.
PP:Â You market that Poshbrood is a “curated catalog”, so many of your followers and readers turn to your site for advice, but you are really a Travel Agency. I remember travel agencies as those little shops in the mall which have gone by the way side. Tell us what’s new in your industry.
ET:Â Hah! Great question. BTW I would love to have an office in a mall! Obviously, travel is becoming more social with smartphones and personal devices. People are using social media and advice of their friends to make travel decisions. We hope Poshbrood will continue to be a part of this trend! Also, review sites are still very important — like Tripadvisor. Other travel trends are multi-family travel: Grandparents taking children and grandchildren to explore the world and eco travel, sustainable travel is continuing to grow.
PP:Â Why should travelers use travel agencies and WHEN should they?
ET:Â So much travel can be done online now and I love those resources too. There is definitely a role for Expedia, Orbitz and other online travel companies. However, if you’re taking a vacation, a travel advisor has the information to provide the best overall solution to your individual travel needs. This can include dates, quality or location of accommodation or stateroom, cancellation policy, recreational amenities, etc. Also, relationships are key. As a Virtuoso affiliate through our partner SmartFlyer in New York, I have access to all the GMs and room managers at most properties.
Having a top travel agent can also make you an instant VIP â€“ free room upgrades, hard to get restaurant reservations, cutting lines, access to otherwise closed stores and exhibits, private guides, and discounted premium airfares. Clients will get the best rates, best rooms, upgrades, added amenities like daily breakfast and spa credits. So you got a great deal online and saved $45? You’ll get the smallest room on a low floor next to the elevator and ice machine instead of the junior suite on the 30th floor with sweeping city views.
PP:Â What are some of the misconceptions of agencies and how do you combat them?
ET:Â Myth #1 — Travel agents cost money. FALSE! Travel agents are paid by the suppliers we book with. So, the traveler is not paying more to use a travel agent. We only charge a small fee when booking domestic airfare for clients or very complicated trips with several legs and it is agreed upon up front.
Myth #2: Itâ€™s easier to book it myself
Not necessarily. Sorting through hours of online research, sites, facts and rates can be confusing. Travel advisors know the properties well to be able to choose the best vacation for each client. Also, advisors have special incentives through suppliers to get you extra amenities for your stay.
Myth #3: I can get it cheaper online.
Not true! You may pay the same or a bit more with a travel agent but you’re getting the best rooms and amenities not the extra inventory, last remaining rooms. See above! Also, there are many hidden costs with online sites and a travel advisor will be able to quote you complete pricing.
PP:Â The world of hotels, resorts, even airlines, doing media FAM trips has changed over the years to include bloggers and those journalists with a big social media following. What can you comment from your own experience on that? How has social media benefited the hospitality industry?
ET:Â Word-of-mouth and recommendations from trusted sources is a huge factor in travel decisions. So is the word-of-mom, which is why we launched Poshbrood. All of the properties in our curated catalog have been “Mom-tested” and Poshbrood-approved. Myself or one of our 8-10 contributors have stayed at the property and wrote up their experience in their words. For travel advisors, FAM trips are important because it is hard to recommend a hotel or destination to clients if you haven’t had that experience. Media trips too are now not just top travel journalists from major dailies or travel publications — Twitter impressions are so important and so the landscape has changed. There are some self-made bloggers who are doing some great travel writing, have robust following and are fun to follow. These are folks who had no outlets 5 years ago and I think this space will still grow and evolve.
PP:Â What do you look for in a travel writer and blogger, whether he or she is writing for you or not?
ET:Â We get a lot of solicitations, some are cold pitches and not a great fit, others have worked out. We like to tap into existing writers or social media experts who are professional, good writers and love to travel. Well-know mommy bloggers are fun to work with. We get a lot of introductions through current contributors and friends — see? That’s the word-of-mouth referral again! When are you going to write something for us, Pamela??!!
PP:Â What advice do you would you give to a seasoned travel writer as well as someone trying to “break in” ?
ET:Â I got my first break from Sherri Dalphonse at Washingtonian magazine. Pre-kids I sent her a pitch about an upscale travel piece with dogs. She asked me to contact her again in a month and I did. She asked me then to contact her again in 6 weeks and I did. She then asked me to tailor it to a fall weekend theme, I redid the pitch and resent her per her request. After several months of follow up, Sherri gave me my first paid writing assignment. I would say perseverance, follow up, attention to detail and getting creative in your pitches/angles will help you get where you want to go. The great thing now is that writers can begin with their own blog to build their portfolio.
PP:Â You are one of the companies on Proudly Made in DC. What can you comment on the vibrant startup community based here in the metro area?
ET:Â It’s incredible! When I launched Poshbrood I was lucky enough to know some tech rockstars like Shana Glickfield at Beekeeper Group, Jimmy Gardner and Peter Corbett. They put me in touch with key players in DC scene include TechCocktail’s Frank Gruber, skeevisArts’ Zvi Band, who was our web developer for Poshbrood. Zvi is also one of the founders of Proudly Made in DC and has introduced me to other DC entrepreneurs. There is so much startup activity in DC, it’s really exciting. Incidentally, Tommy McFly of The Tommy Show is the one who “taught” me to Tweet in the fall of 2010 (he created a monster) and entrepreneur and revamp.com founder Daniel Swartz and his team is our web manager.
PP:Â What’s next for Poshbrood?
ET: We’re working on launching a “Posh Perks” membership program. Our members will pay an annual fee to get access to exclusive VIP Poshbrood rates, travel deals, sales and amenities at participating hotels. Some of the amenities are room upgrades, free overnight parking, pizza party and in room movie for kids, spa credits, etc. Essentially, it pays for itself in a night in a participating hotel. We’re working on a new area of our site for Posh Perks members that would include a travel forum, a place to write their reviews, make recommendations, post hotel photos and videos.
PP:Â Where is your FAVORITE place you’ve ever traveled (with or without the kids!)
ET:Â This is such a tough one – best beach is Turks & Caicos, hands down. My favorite city is a tie between Paris and Istanbul. My favorite region I’ve ever visited is the Dordogne in southwest France. We took the kids there in April and it was a trip of a lifetime. The beauty of the region is unsurpassed; rivers cut through limestone, leaving stunning cliffs people have built homes around and into for thousands of years. The vast system of caves below the earth hold prehistoric art and drawings. And the cuisine is one of the best in all of the world with truffles and fois gras. The Dordogne is called “land of a thousand castles” — there are so many chateau and medieval villages in the region, there is a new one around each bend. I cannot wait to return!
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.