Dept. of Cross-Divisional Synergy

The Gilt MAN Q&A: Jetsetting CEO Drew Patterson

To celebrate the launch of Jetsetter 24/7, which lets members book the properties featured on whenever they want, CEO Drew Patterson gives us the lowdown on the new service, 2011's top travel trends, and the importance of making nice with the folks from the TSA.

In Vineyard Veritas: Bardessono Napa Valley.

The flash-sale model has been a huge success. Why move in the 24/7 direction, and why now?
We receive about 100 emails, tweets, and Facebook posts every week from members wanting Jetsetter’s recommendations for the best honeymoon resorts in Bali or our favorite design hotels in London. It became clear to us early in the business that our members trust Jetsetter’s opinion and clearly wanted 365-day access to our black book of Jetsetter-verified vacations. We will continue to feature 15-30 sales in our flash product at prices up to 50 percent off. But now members can browse more than 200 hand-selected, verified vacations and purchase 24/7 at Jetsetter exclusive prices.

What’s your personal favorite property on the list?
Wow, it’s hard to select a favorite. One of my favorite properties is the Bardessono in Napa Valley (pictured). It’s a small, intimate property that feels like a luxurious villa in Italy. My girlfriend and I often celebrate birthdays and other special occasions there. I highly recommend the spa suites, each with a furnished balcony and a fireplace. With a bottle of wine and some cheese, there’s almost no reason to leave the room. Well, except that many of Napa’s best wineries, bars, and restaurants are within walking distance to the hotel.

You’ve spent your share of time on the road for both business and pleasure. Do you have any hard-won advice—aside from always book on Jetsetter, that is—for the traveling gent?
As a friend and colleague is fond of reminding me when I travel internationally, “Don’t use The Force. Plan ahead and research travel requirements ASAP.” I have learned the hard way that traveling abroad—especially to Asia and the Middle East—requires a lot of paperwork and documentation prior to take-off. Once a trip is planned, visit the country’s own website for travel requirements—do NOT rely on friends or even travel agent advice because they can’t help you at the airport when the country’s officials send you back home. Don’t just assume all you need is your passport. Many of these countries require a visa which can take weeks to process and receive. Rules also vary on passport requirements. Some countries won’t accept a new passport—within a month of issue—while other destinations will close their borders if your passport expires within three months. Do your research and plan ahead.

Gilt MANual correspondent Gay Talese is an advocate of dressing well to get treated well while flying. Do you subscribe to the same philosophy?
I tend to dress in jeans regardless of whether I am attending a board meeting or a friend’s wedding. Dressing up can’t hurt, but I find a pleasant disposition and a little empathy for a gate agent who is abused by rude travelers all day long goes much further than a designer label.

Great point. So how do you go about choosing a Jetsetter property?
Our beloved curators hand select unique travel experiences throughout the globe. These tastemakers know luxury, service, and style and hail from luxury lifestyle and travel brands such as American Express, Four Seasons, Peninsula Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton, Vera Wang, and Vogue. In the last quarter of 2010, Jetsetter’s curators traveled to several dozen countries including Australia, China, England, France, Hong Kong, and Japan to find new properties and experiences guaranteed to surprise and delight members. Rachel is busy negotiating VIP packages to in-demand events such as the Oscars and the upcoming royal qedding; Maya is discovering new boutique hotels in emerging destinations in Asia; and Colleen is focused on drive-to destinations from major cities perfect for long weekend getaways.

Each property you feature gets the Jetsetter Verified stamp of approval? What exactly goes into that?
Once a hotel is on our radar, it must be verified by one of Jetsetter’s 200 correspondents representing the world’s most experienced travel writers, whose articles can be read in leading travel and lifestyle outlets such as Elle, Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s Guidebooks, Travel + Leisure, and Vogue. The writer sleeps in the beds, eats at the restaurants, drinks at the bars, enjoys a few spa treatments, and takes the tours. The correspondent writes a review that reads like a conversation with a friend who has just returned from vacation and is telling everyone about the attributes that made the experience distinctive and memorable. The Jetsetter review includes an overview of the destination, grounds, rooms, and amenities, but also specifies details not to miss such as a signature drink at the bar, a great restaurant only locals know about, or tips for snagging the best cabana at the pool. The “What to Know” section reveals details that might not appeal to all travelers, such as an especially lively kiddie pool or the timing of the rainy season. You can meet many of our correspondents on our team page.

Thanks to your huge and expanding base of members, you get a first-hand look into what excites discerning travelers at any given time. What are your people responding to right now?
We see tremendous interest in bucket list trips. Things like photo safaris in India, cruises to the Galapagos, bike trips through Tuscany, and VIP Trips to the Super Bowl. We see tremendous interest in once-in-a-lifetime adventure trips like a guided hike to the top of Kilimanjaro or a rafting tour through Patagonia.

What do you see as the top trends in travel in the year ahead?
The economy is bouncing back and there is a lot of pent-up demand for international travel, as many consumers played it safe with domestic trips in 2010. We see a big increase in international trips booked, especially to destinations in Asia. We also see tremendous interest in villas as people like to vacation with friends or family. A villa can provide great value, as many couples or families are splitting the cost, plus you can dine at home which is very friendly on the wallet. Some of our villas come with a personal chef and other staff members, so if cooking your own meals doesn’t sound like a vacation, we have options for you, as well. Jetsetter features villas all over the world, but our villas in Mexico and Hawaii are by far the most popular.

Click here to enter the Jetsetter 24/7 giveaway, in which Drew & co. are giving away an awesome new vacation every day for seven days straight. Enter once and you could win any of them. Invite friends and you’ll get an entry for each friend who also enters. Winners will be announced on February 1.

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