Brian Harris, ready to set sail in Hawaii // © 2014 Brian Harris
Feature image (above): Lanai is one of many places to explore Hawaii's remote treasures. // © 2014 HTA/Dana Edmunds
Born and raised in Chicago, Brian Harris visited 40 states before he had even started kindergarten. As a youngster, he went on sales trips with his father whenever possible and practically learned how to read from AAA tour books.
These days, Harris parlays his love of travel into his professional life as a travel agent at Destination Site Selection, an agency based in Aspen, Colorado. He excels at coordinating luxury leisure and corporate group travel to national and international resorts.
A specialist in many destinations, Harris is particularly passionate about Hawaii’s remoteness. He talked with TravelAge West about how he helps his clients get away from it all in the 50th state.
Why is Hawaii the perfect destination for really getting away from it all?
At 1,860 miles from the nearest continent, the Hawaiian Islands are geographically farther removed than anywhere else in the world. Much of the state is still undeveloped, so it's easy to find yourself alone. Hawaii's geographical diversity affords many different climates in a small area. A lot of the natural landscape looks like something right out of a movie.
Where in Hawaii do you go when you want to experience a sense of remoteness?
On Oahu, I like to hike through bamboo forests and to waterfalls. I escape the crowds in Waikiki by staying on the North Shore or in Ko Olina on the west side. On Maui’s Hana Highway, it’s fun to weave and wind in and out of remote, dense forests and past wild ocean views. On Kauai, taking a Jeep off-road in Waimea Canyon transports you to another world. Go almost anywhere on Hawaii Island, and certainly on Lanai and Molokai, and it feels like it's just you and the mountains and the sea.
How do you help your luxury clients explore Hawaii's remote treasures?
Many of my luxury clients are experiential travelers who aren't afraid to explore when they travel. Of course, there are different levels of adventure. Some clients like slogging through a muddy path to a waterfall, while others are content with a four-wheel-drive tour around former movie sets. For clients who want everything taken care of, I suggest guided tours where they can just enjoy the view.
How can an off-the-beaten-path activity enhance a corporate meeting in Hawaii?
Hawaii offers many unique activities for corporate groups looking to get away and bond. A few that come to mind are swimming with wild dolphins, horseback riding, surfing and paddleboard lessons, outrigger canoe rides, hiking to the top of a dormant volcano and inner tubing down a mountain stream. In my personal experience, groups who take part in these types of activities have a much better chance of making lifelong friends.
How do you create itineraries that help clients get away from it all?
It all boils down to knowing your client. For some people, "getting away from it all" means cocktails at an adults-only pool, while others may be looking for a private cottage on a secluded beach. Visitor bureaus and property reps are a good source of insider suggestions. Often, adding just one or two out-of-the-ordinary experiences to the itinerary is enough to make someone's trip. I think that we all travel to experience something different and create moments we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.