Becky Lukovic of Bella Travel Planning discussing bespoke travel itinerarieson Empowering Women Travelers.

Trends of Unique Female Travel with Becky Lukovic of Bella Travel Planning

Episode Overview

Episode Topic:
In this captivating episode of TravelPreneur, we get into a journey of empowering women travelers and crafting unique itineraries with Becky Lukovic, a luxury travel designer and founder of Bella Travel Planning. Becky brings over 20 years of experience in the travel industry, specializing in crafting bespoke itineraries that cater to the unique interests of her clients. This episode dives deep into her approach to luxury travel, her role in empowering women travelers through the Bella Travel Women’s Travel Club, and the future of female travel. Becky shares her insights on creating personalized travel experiences, the importance of knowing one’s worth in the travel business, and the emerging trends in women’s travel.

Lessons You’ll Learn:
Listeners will learn valuable lessons on how to ensure each travel itinerary is a distinctive and personalized experience. Becky Lukovic emphasizes the importance of starting with an in-depth understanding of each traveler’s preferences and interests. She discusses the significance of mentorship in the travel industry, particularly in helping other professionals recognize their worth and charge appropriately for their services. Additionally, Becky offers practical advice on how to pivot and thrive in the post-pandemic travel landscape, including strategies for entering the luxury travel market and scaling a travel business. Her insights are not only applicable to travel professionals but also to anyone interested in enhancing their travel planning skills and creating meaningful travel experiences.

About Our Guest:
Becky Lukovic is a renowned luxury travel designer and the founder of Bella Travel Planning. With over two decades of experience in the travel industry, Becky has built a reputation for creating unique, bespoke itineraries that cater to her clients’ individual interests. She is also the leader of the Bella Travel Women’s Travel Club, known as Ciao Bella, which empowers women travelers to explore the world through curated journeys. Becky’s passion for travel and dedication to her clients have made her a respected figure in the industry. Her ability to blend personal interests with luxurious travel experiences sets her apart, making her an inspiring mentor for other travel professionals.

Topics Covered:
This episode covers a wide range of topics centered around empowering women travelers and creating bespoke travel experiences. Becky Lukovic discusses her meticulous process for designing personalized itineraries, including the importance of understanding each client’s unique preferences. The conversation also delves into Becky’s efforts to mentor other travel professionals, particularly in the areas of recognizing their worth and navigating the luxury travel market. Additionally, the episode explores the trends and opportunities in post-pandemic travel, especially for solo and group female travelers. Through the Ciao Bella Travel Club, Becky fosters a supportive and adventurous community for women, encouraging them to explore diverse cultures and destinations. This episode is packed with insights and advice for both travel enthusiasts and professionals.

Our Guest: Becky Lukovic – Empowering Women Travelers through Ciao Bella Travel Club

Becky Lukovic is a seasoned luxury travel designer and the visionary behind Bella Travel Planning, a company she rebranded in 2010 to better reflect her passion for creating beautiful, life-changing travel experiences. With over 20 years in the industry, Becky has specialized in crafting bespoke itineraries that cater to her clients’ individual interests, ranging from culinary and wine-tasting trips to adventure travel and luxury cruises. Her journey began with an “aha” moment in Sorrento, Italy, which inspired her to launch On the Go Travel Company in 2001. Since then, she has cultivated a reputation for her meticulous attention to detail and personalized approach to travel planning​​​​.

In addition to her role at Bella Travel Planning, Becky leads the Ciao Bella Travel Club, a women’s travel community she founded to connect and empower female travelers. This initiative fosters a supportive environment where women can share their passion for travel, explore new destinations together, and engage in culturally enriching experiences. Becky’s commitment to empowering women travelers extends beyond just arranging trips; she actively mentors other travel professionals, helping them recognize their worth and navigate the complexities of the luxury travel market. Her efforts have not only created memorable travel experiences but have also inspired many women to embark on solo or group adventures with confidence​​​​.

Becky’s extensive network of industry connections and her dedication to her clients have earned her a respected position in the travel community. She is a member of various prestigious travel advisory boards and holds specialist certifications with top luxury brands like Four Seasons, Relais & Chateaux, and Ritz Carlton. Her expertise is frequently sought after in industry publications, and she has been featured on the cover of Luxury Travel Advisor Magazine. Becky’s mantra, “travel, like fine wine, should be savored as an experience and not gulped down in a hurry,” encapsulates her philosophy of creating deeply personal and unforgettable travel journeys. Her ability to blend luxury with personal touch continues to set her apart as a leading figure in the travel industry​.

Episode Transcript

Megha McSwain: Welcome back to TravelPreneur, where we dive into the world of travel innovations. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we have Becky Lukovic, a luxury travel designer and content creator with over 20 years of experience in the travel industry. As the founder of Bella Travel Planning. She creates unique, bespoke itineraries that cater to her clients’ interests. Becky also leads the Bella Travel Women’s Travel Club, empowering women to explore the world through curated journeys. We’ll discuss her approach to luxury travel, mentorship, and the future of female travel. Welcome to the show, Becky.

Becky Lukovic: Oh, thank you, Megha. Thank you for having me.

Megha McSwain: For sure. Becky, how do you ensure that each itinerary at Bella Travel is a distinctive, personalized experience for your clients?

Becky Lukovic: That’s a really good question. We start at the very beginning, so we treat all of our travelers like individuals. because of that, every one of our itineraries tends to be very individualistic. So we start with I call sometimes I call it the 20 questions game. It may not be 20, but I even even the questions I ask, sometimes vary. So a lot of times we’ll have an exploratory call or an exploratory email. Then I just want my travelers to share their vision of the trip, because I think that’s important. So I don’t want to just take someone and put them into what I think they should see. I want to know what they want to experience. Do you like art? Do you like cooking? Do you like wine? Do you want something hands-on? Would you want to do a Vespa tour? Do you like to hike? Do you not like to hike? does nature give you the hives or does it jazz you? So they’re even in places like Europe and, and and those types of places you might there are opportunities to be out in nature. So everything we do is truly bespoke. listening to their answers and understanding who they are as travelers helps us ensure that.

Megha McSwain: And has anyone brought up something that maybe you hadn’t done before or offered before? When you’re asking those 20 questions, I’m sure things have come up in the past where you’re like, oh, that’s a new one.

Becky Lukovic: Yes. There are always new things. I’m trying to think of an example. recently, sometimes they want to have a meal in a special place, or I’m trying to think of what I haven’t thought about recently. Like a boat to take them to a private island area for a picnic, for example. Maybe I haven’t done it there, but I’ve done it in other places. Maybe something like that.

Megha McSwain: I know you’re thinking of examples. Can you share a story or a moment that embodies the essence of the travel experience? Maybe a client that gave you just said you blew it out of the park? I mean, that was exactly what I wanted, and every box was checked, maybe a story that you can share.

Megha McSwain: Sure. We did this, incentive trip last fall for for a company. We don’t do a ton of those, but. But when they’re the right fit, we’ll do them. My favorite experience that we planned was when the winners first arrived in Rome, we had a vintage car experience. So they two by two loaded in these 1950s, 60s, and 70s Italian cool sexy cars. They went on this drive through Rome. So that was just really cool. But the best part, the part I didn’t tell them until they were actually on the road and noticed it was because of the group size and because of my partner’s connections, we were able to stop traffic in Rome for us to go through at five. Wow. So we had a police escort. We had people the traffic stopped on the side and we just went through like a VIP should. Then we got to the top of the viewing area and we had this Airstream there waiting for us with a pair of TIF cocktails and snacks right there. Then we came back through and again like we came around to where the Colosseum is and the traffic stopped. You just have this moment where you make the turn and you see the Colosseum right there, and the people are like, who are they? To me, that embodies this amazing experience that they, the owner of the company, wanted them to feel like this was their moment and this was their moment.

Megha McSwain: That sounds amazing. Like a bucket list moment for sure. So beyond the experiences, which you’re amazing at. You’ve been instrumental in mentoring other travel professionals, particularly during the pandemic. What challenges have you helped people address and how have those relationships shaped your approach to your business?

Becky Lukovic: For sure. I think anytime where you teach somebody or maybe come alongside a mentor somebody’s principles, it embodies them deeper inside you as well. Because sometimes you’ll give advice and you’re like, hmm, I should take that advice.

Megha McSwain: Right.

Becky Lukovic: It comes out, you’re like, oh, that’s good. So really the biggest hurdle speed bump, I guess is a better word. The biggest speed bump that I was able to help people get over is knowing their worth and the value they bring to the table, and being able to set up their business to charge fees. That showed that worth was reflective of the wealth of knowledge, experience, and connections that they have. So that was one of those. Then the other was being able to enter into the luxury landscape in travel and being able to move forward in that many of them already had luxury clients. But it’s sometimes it’s, it’s hard because you want to hold on to everything. at some point, you have to let some go and continue forward on the path that you want to forge, whatever path that is. So say they want to do Africa. It’s like, are their trips or their places or.

Megha McSwain: This episode is brought to you by Travel businesses have unique needs when it comes to credit card processing, from large average ticket sizes and tolerance for higher chargeback ratios to simple integrations with the most popular shopping cart systems. The travel industry specialists at have you covered. Unfortunately, many of the most popular credit card processors initially accept travel businesses, but without warning, freeze their merchant accounts and the thousands of dollars in them. Because these service providers don’t understand or support the unique needs of the travel industry business, don’t get stuck with one of the big guys who will freeze you out without a moment’s notice. Instead, work with a travel industry specialist who will support your business every step of the way. Visit Travel to get a free quote today.

Megha McSwain: Travelers that you need to let go so you can focus on that,

Becky Lukovic: Right.

Megha McSwain: And how does Bella Travel’s philosophy of collaboration influence the services you provide in the community you built? Like you said, it is important to kind of hone in on something, instead of having this just spread too thin, I guess I should say.

Becky Lukovic: Yes, for sure. Collaboration, for me, makes my heart happy. To me, that is the epitome of a bespoke, customized trip. Is that working together? And so for me, that’s part of our value. and everybody has different models. But for me, I welcome that input. I welcome that collaboration because I want the trip to be as unique as they are. So because of that, that, that collaboration and, and I welcome it. It’s like, what do you think? It’s not just, okay, you need to do x, y, z. It’s like, okay,

Megha McSwain: Here’s your kind of feed off of each other’s ideas.

Becky Lukovic: Yes. I love it when they say, hey, this is good, but maybe this isn’t quite something that we’re interested in. I love that because I learn more about them because my clients, handle their journeys trip after trip after trip. So the more I learn about them, the better I get at knowing what’s a good fit, and what’s not. and it just continues that relationship.

Megha McSwain: What strategies do you recommend for travel professionals seeking to pivot and thrive in the post-pandemic travel landscape? Things have changed so much in the last four years.

Becky Lukovic: Sure. I say back to know your worth. Know your worth. Know the value that you bring. Don’t be afraid to say that you charge a fee. Or don’t be afraid to say, this is where I can add value. So even in my journey, I’ve learned the areas where I can bring value. it’s not that I don’t want to help people who have maybe a budget that doesn’t allow me to bring value, but I can’t. There’s nothing I can add to that. But in my sweet spot that there’s a sweet spot both in, budget and and travel philosophy, all that. There’s a sweet spot where I can add value. So I would say that would be one thing. Then the other thing is hire to replace yourself and hire to your weaknesses there. There are a lot of times as travel advisors, we’re a one-woman show. We’re a one-man show or one person as a booking assistant, and that’s awesome. That’s a great way to work. But eventually, you have a ceiling. So if you want to, even if you don’t want a huge empire, you want a mini-empire, you have to scale some and you have to even though there are things that you love doing, some things you have to let go. So delegate. If you don’t have people to delegate that, there’s nothing. So. Right. That’s the other biggest thing.

Megha McSwain: And with more women exploring, exploring, solo and group travel. What emerging trends, if any, do you foresee in female travel kind of as a niche industry doer?

Becky Lukovic: That to me, that’s the fun one. That’s super, super exciting because I’m seeing women who want to explore the world and say their partner is either too busy or not interested in doing some of the things that they want to do, or they just want to do it with a girlfriend or on their own, or if they don’t have a partner.

Becky Lukovic: They don’t have a partner. I think there’s a misconception that all female travelers are single. That’s not true either, so I love the fact that girls’ trips are no longer hey, let’s go to a beach and drink a ton of margaritas and go shopping. There’s another drink in the markets and shopping, but they’re like, hey, let’s go to Peru, let’s go to Galapagos. I want to go kayaking and snorkeling. I want to go see Machu Picchu. I want to do this walking trip in the Cotswolds. I want to do I want to see the world. I don’t want to wait for somebody to come with me. I love that. I support that totally, 100%.

Megha McSwain: And there are Bella Travel women’s travel clubs. How does that foster a supportive and adventurous community for its members? What exactly kind of goes into that?

Becky Lukovic: Sure. it’s and it’s ciao bella. So it’s Ciao Bella. okay, so it’s part of Bella Travel, but it’s ciao Bella. So we we launched that two years ago, and the original vision which we’ve accomplished makes my heart happy is we wanted to connect women who love travel, who love that engaging. Curious. dig into the culture. Do something fun. Learn about yourself. Kind of travel. So we wanted to connect women with other women who liked that type of travel. So we hatched this plan to have, events. I live in Atlanta, in the greater Atlanta area to connect women. To me, that’s the primary is the connection. I’m not here just to sell, to fill trips and put 50, 60 people on a trip and have a girls trip. We have small group trips so people can connect. You can learn, you can grow, you can go, oh, where are we going next? But also in Atlanta, if there’s someone who right now you can’t travel, but you love traveling and you love hearing about it, and you want to learn some new things, then we’re the club for you. We meet a handful of times a year, five, six, seven times a year. we do fun stuff.

Becky Lukovic: And because it’s, it’s you can’t travel with everybody. So it’s nice to have that group that you sort of know and you think, okay, well, I could travel with this person. Our personalities are similar, whereas maybe you can’t travel with your own sister or your own best friend or something like that just because of conflicting personalities or whatever it could be. Absolutely.

Megha McSwain: 100%. I have dear, dear friends that I cannot travel with, and I have people who in the beginning we might not have seen very close, but then we travel together. It’s like, well, now we know. It’s an art. So you’re right, you can’t necessarily travel with everybody. it’s fun to get to know people in this small group setting and bond over that shared love, traveling, and all that. I also love all of our trips. I love that we have space for people to do their own thing as well. So it’s like, you know what? If you want to, you want to go on a walk today and you want to go on this tour that you found that was optional, and I want to go to a Michelin-star restaurant tonight. Hey, that’s fine. We’ll meet later. We’ll talk about it. To me, I like giving that breathing room space so people can also feel like they can be independent as well as with what?

Megha McSwain: What is the future of Ciao Bella is there? How do you plan to inspire women to continue exploring diverse cultures? So how do you plan to grow this kind of club? Uh, what are the plans for the future?

Becky Lukovic: I dream big, I think it’s gonna grow. So right now, even if you’re not in the Atlanta area, you can still join one of our channel trips. but I have had I have been approached by other people who want to start a child ballet in their area. I’m like, hold on, let me get this. Let me get Atlanta, like, down and find my best practices first. So it definitely may very well scale. When Becky dreams big that’s definitely in the cards.

Megha McSwain: Yes. Because I think it sounds like a great idea for a lot of different cities. I’m sure a lot of people would want to take advantage of that.

Becky Lukovic: Yes, for sure, for sure.

Megha McSwain: Well, Becky, thank you so much for sharing your insights and your journey with us today. Your expertise in crafting luxury travel and empowering women especially really shines through your work. we’re so I am glad to have people like you doing stuff like that because it kind of takes people like me who may be nervous about traveling alone. It takes us out of our comfort zone. and I think that’s important. So thank you for that.

Becky Lukovic: Oh, you’re welcome.

Megha McSwain: Let our listeners know where they can learn more about Ciao Bella and Bella Travel and where they can contact you as far as your website or LinkedIn. Absolutely.

Becky Lukovic: So there are three really good ways to get Ahold of me. So the first one is via my website, my Bella The second is my Instagram. My Instagram is mybellatravel. So you’ll see all my travel pictures. You’ll see pictures of food, just all kinds of fun things on there. Then also my Facebook page which would be Bella Travel Planning. So those three places are the best place for you to get in touch with me.

Megha McSwain: Great. Yes, and it sounds like a good account to follow too. I love travel and food pages and that’s wonderful. Well, to our listeners, thank you so much for listening today. Please leave a review and share your thoughts on today’s conversation and until next time, keep exploring and embracing new opportunities in the world of travel.