Condé Nast's Top Agent List: Best of the West

Consumer magazine honors industry's standouts

By: Jamie Wetherbe

Each year, Condé Nast Traveler magazine rigorously evaluates travel agents to pick the best of the travel biz, and recently the consumer magazine released 127 agent names that clients will want to keep handy.

When evaluating hundreds of applicants, Condé Nast Traveler is looking for more than just agents who book every trip via a tour operator, but those who have first-hand knowledge of the destination they sell and can sell to a variety of buyers not just those with thick wallets.

Agents are typically first recommended via e-mail by the magazine’s readers, and those who earn only a few nominations or one complaint are knocked off the list. After that, nominees must undergo a screening process, including a 25-question application, sample itineraries, phone interviews and client referrals.

And here at TravelAge West, we were pleased to see so many of the top agents close to home.

“Being recognized by Condé Nast Traveler gives me a lot of credibility,” said California-based agent Ricci Zukerman, who’s spent four years on the list. “Since most clients keep the magazine all year round, even seven to eight months after the issue is out, I still get calls from people because of it.”

This marks California agent Brian T. Robertson’s fifth year on the list. “Every year it has more meaning,” he said. “Because of the listing, I recently made an arrangement for two people celebrating their anniversary with a large group of 60 people on a 737 for the Caribbean. Business is very good, thanks to the magazine’s publicity.”

(Agents should also keep an eye out for Travel + Leisure magazine’s agent A List, coming in September.)

Below are the 48 Western agents who made the grade, according to Condé Nast Traveler, with their specialties in parentheses.

Arizona

Betsy Donley
Camelback Odyssey Travel
Phoenix (Southwest)

Judy Lucas
Concierge Cruises & Tours
Tucson (Cruises)

California

Ricci Zukerman
Worldview Travel
Santa Ana (Jewish Heritage Tours and Isreal)

Brian T. Robertson
Robertson International Travel Consultants
Santa Barbara (Private-Jet Vacations)

Monique Rodriguez
Cortez Travel/Madagascar Expeditions
Solana Beach (Madagascar)

Astrid Breuer,
Michael’s Travel Centre Inc.
Agoura Hills (Seychelles)

Mary Pyle Peters
Distinctive Journeys
Blairsden (Canada)

Jewell Ramos
Worldview Travel
Santa Ana (Mexico)

Diane Embree
Michael’s Travel Centre
Westlake Village (Bali)

Brent Olson
Geographic Expeditions
San Francisco (Bhutan and Nepal)

Mary Deforest Cardoza
Cardoza-Bungey Travel
Palo Alto (Cambodia)

Sanjay Saxena
Geographic Expeditions
San Francisco (India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Tibet)

Nancy Craft
Esprit Travel & Tours
Los Angeles (Japan)

Lindsey Wallace
Linara Travel
Encino (Maldives)

Howard Lewis
Chartwell Travel
Inglewood (France)

James R. Berkeley
Destinations & Adventures International
Los Angeles (Egypt)

Lynette Wilson
Destination World
Santa Barbara (Australia and Fiji)

Kleon Howe
The Art of Travel
San Diego (French Polynesia and the Cook Islands)

Jackie Richmond
Wine Country Concierge
Napa (Napa Valley)

Steven E. Shulem
Strictly Vacations
Santa Barbara (Yachtlike Ships)

Mary Crowley
Ocean Voyages
Sausalito (Exotic Yacht Charters)

Betty Cox
Travel Concepts
Fountain Valley (Hawaii)

Robin Kanno
Landmark Travel
Orinda (Hawaii)

Leslie Fambrini
Personalized Travel Consultants
Los Altos (Luxury Cruises)

Ayse Boykin
TravelStore
Santa Monica (Scuba Diving)

Kay Merrill
Are We There Yet?
Corte Madera (Family Travel: Trips With Children)

Victoria Goyet
Endless Beginnings Tours
San Diego (Italy)

Colorado

LaDonna Epler
AwardPlanner
Colorado Springs (Frequent-Flier Miles)

Nancy Kimbrough
Dolphin Dreams Travel
Boulder (Swimming With Dolphins)

Meg Austin
The Travel Society
Denver (Scuba Diving)

Jana Emery
Ski.com
Glenwood Springs (Skiing: U.S. & Canada)

Cherri Briggs
Explore
Steamboat Springs (Botswana, Gabon, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia)

Thomas M. Keesling
Tom Keesling Travel
Denver (Rwanda and Uganda)

Tom Damon
Southwind Adventures
Littleton (Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil)

Harmina Mulder
The Travel Society,
Denver (Belgium and the Netherlands)

Terryl Lofgren
World Wide Adventures & Photo Journeys
Golden (Arctic Circle)

Montana

Caroline Wood
Off the Beaten Path
Bozeman (The Rockies)

Oregon

Chuck and Lynn Cross
Expeditions Inc.
Bend (Antarctica)

Paul Niskanen
Cruise Masters
Beaverton (Scandinavia and the Baltic Cruises)

Sylvia and Ted Blishak
Accent on Travel USA
Klamath Falls (Rail Travel: North America)

Texas

Dorothea Rasser
SkiEurope
Houston (Skiing: Europe)

Leigh Ann Cloutier
Rico Tours
Austin (Costa Rica)

Roberto Agostini
Precision Travel
Dallas (Italy)

Rudi Steele
Rudi Steele Travel
Dallas (Malta, Western Europe and Hotels, Resorts and Villas)

Washington

Rita Zawaideh
Travel Express/Caravan-Serai
Seattle (Jordan, Lebanon and Syria)

Sheri Doyle
Pacific Northwest Journeys
Seattle (Pacific Northwest)

Janet Lanterman
Cruise Specialists
Seattle (Cruises)

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