Travel Inspiration

Introducing This Year’s Top Travel Specialists

Introducing This Year’s Top Travel Specialists

This week, Conde Nast Traveler (the US version, hence the single ‘l’) have included no fewer than 11 of our specialists in their annual list of the Top Travel Specialists – their little black book spotlighting the industry’s finest experts on a destination or type of travel. We love to receive recognition from the wider travel industry, and while Conde Nast Traveler was faced with a tough challenge selecting from the Original Travel team, the final list gives an excellent snapshot of our collective expertise. Read on to find out more about what makes these specialists stand out...


  1. Tom Barber - Co-Founder and Family Specialist
  2. Oliver Rodwell - Mexico Specialist
  3. Isabel de Galleani - Morocco Specialist
  4. Holly Barber - Cambodia Specialist
  5. Ben Williams - Egypt Specialist
  6. Jacqui Brooks - Indonesia Specialist
  7. Harriet Harford - European Wine Regions Specialist
  8. Frances Mavor - Sri Lanka Specialist
  9. Kate Little - Romania Specialist
  10. Lucy Bailey - Oman Specialist
  11. James Back - Tanzania Specialist 

Tom Barber 

Family and Sabbaticals Specialist 

‘With four children, the eldest pair now in their teenage years, I have a good understanding of family holidays and what and where works for different age groups. I get plenty of useful feedback from my children and this has been key to refining our family trips. I strongly believe in travel's importance in broadening a child's perspective, every bit as much as academic learning. The type of trip is pivotal, of course; a villa stay won't teach much about Greece, however, a well-planned journey with elements of adventure, context and cultural immersion can significantly expand a child's worldview. I also have a good deal of knowledge when it comes to planning sabbaticals. We orchestrated a two-year sabbatical for a client who sold his business (even creating a progress-tracking website) and literally wrote the guide on the intricacies of planning sabbaticals, covering how, why, and, of course, where to embark on such enriching breaks.’  

Learn more about Tom's expertise

Child snorkelling

© Olivier Romano


Oliver Rodwell 

Mexico Specialist 

‘In 2010, I went to Mexico for the first time to attend my now sister-in-law's wedding. After a lively celebration, which involved lots of dancing at the historic hacienda wedding venue, we explored the Tulum ruins and pristine white sand beaches, ventured into charming colonial towns like San Miguel de Allende, and discovered the untamed, jungle-covered beaches along the Pacific coast. One of my all-time favourite places is the Yaxchillan ruins in Chiapas, which are gradually being reclaimed by the encroaching jungle, and are only accessible by boat. Climbing one of its pyramids and encountering a howler monkey was a truly unforgettable experience.’ 

View Oliver's profile

© Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times/Redux-REA

Isabel de Galleani

Morocco Specialist

‘I first visited Morocco in 2007 and each subsequent trip has continued to captivate me. The country's dynamic and diverse nature, and fascinating interplay of chaos and calm, never fails to excite me. The best trips combine the hustle and bustle of the imperial cities with visits to the coast, mountains and desert, which is easily achievable without extensive travel. Beyond its rich culture and history, I have a particular fondness for Moroccan interiors. I’ll never get bored of discovering newly designed Riads or revisiting cherished ones, and my homewares collection has grown over the years to include carpets, cushions, candle holders, tea sets and a pair of exceptionally comfortable Moroccan leather slippers.’ 

Read about Issy's latest trip to Morocco

Palm trees Morocco



Holly Barber

Cambodia Specialist

‘Back in 1997, I embarked on my first journey to Cambodia for a backpacking adventure. The Angkor temples were pretty much deserted at the time and wandering through these largely unexplored sites was incredible. While such solitary experiences are now rare, especially at Angkor, the temples still have a wonderful vibe. I went on to live in Cambodia for four years and gained an intimate knowledge of the country. As an avid photographer, one of the most fulfilling experiences was the opportunity to explore many of the more unconventional ancient sites. Many a morning was spent racing through the pre-dawn countryside to capture temples in solitude. The insights I gained can enhance your own experience, whether it's focused on photography or other pursuits.’ 

View Holly's profile

Temple in Cambodia


Ben Williams

Egypt Specialist

‘My introduction to Egypt was an epic three-week trip in 2010, starting in Hurghada and ending in Cairo. I witnessed a country pulsating with life, proud of its illustrious history while eagerly charting a new future. The great thing about Egypt is how versatile it is as a destination, catering to every kind of traveller. Families can revel in fantastical tales, and newlyweds can enjoy a magical honeymoon combining the Great Pyramids, a Nile cruise and snorkelling in the Red Sea. My top piece of advice for anyone planning a trip to Egypt is to resist the urge to hastily check off landmarks. Allocating an extra day for exploring local markets or indulging in a Cairo food tour (the street food is excellent) ensures a more immersive experience and will restore your energy for the next history lesson.’

Nile cruise in Egypt



Jacqui Brooks 

Indonesia Specialist 

‘My first trip to Indonesia was in 2010, on a backpacking holiday with a friend. We kicked off our adventure in Jakarta, swiftly boarded an overnight train bound for Yogyakarta and woke up in Java ready to dive into our first full day in Indonesia. What I love most about the archipelago is the sheer spectrum of experiences on offer, from climbing the crater rim of an active volcano and exploring a working sulphur mine in Eastern Java at sunrise to discovering the vibrant underwater world of Menjangan Island in Bali. Indonesia is also a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, and seeing orangutans in their natural habitat is a true privilege.’ 

View Jacqui's profile

Manta ray in Indonesia


Harriet Harford 

European Wine Regions Specialist 

‘Burgundy, in France, is my favourite wine region to explore. It’s easily accessible from the UK for a long weekend and is home to my favourite white wine – a white Burgundy – and some wonderful family-run and owned vineyards that have secured a special place in my heart. Meeting these dedicated wine producers in person, and witnessing firsthand their passion and expertise, is a truly wonderful experience. For fellow wine enthusiasts, I’d recommend looking beyond the well-known labels; touring the smaller vineyards and secluded cellars often leaves the most lasting impressions and can be a savvy way to stretch your budget. I also recommend avoiding the temptation to overpack your itinerary as four tastings in a day can be overwhelming. I find that three strikes the perfect balance, allowing ample time to savour each experience.’

Wine cellar in France


Frances Mavor 

Sri Lanka Specialist 

Around five years ago, I went to Sri Lanka for the first time, and since then, my fascination with the country has only deepened. The landscapes are incredibly diverse, ranging from enchanting tea plantations to pristine beaches. And every person I've spoken to who has travelled to Sri Lanka mentions the extraordinary kindness, warmth and friendliness of the locals. One of my fondest memories is of a tuk-tuk ride to Lipton's Seat for sunrise. The panoramic views stretch for miles and the greenery of the tea plantations is a sight to behold. The journey back is equally lovely – you can walk along the road and watch children heading off to school, smell breakfast being cooked and generally soak in the incredible atmosphere.’ 

View Frances' profile

People in Sri Lanka

© Carol Sachs

Kate Little 

Romania Specialist 

‘I love how different Romania is to the rest of Europe. During my first visit there, I was completed blown away by the country's cultural history, authenticity and untouched natural beauty. Romania provides the kind of setting where you can genuinely disconnect and immerse yourself in a world that feels wild, free and far removed from modern life. I particularly love the Transylvanian villages, where you'll find colourful ramshackle houses, laid-back locals and traditional guesthouses which make for a truly original and authentic stay. The mountains around Fagaras are really special too, boasting breathtaking passes and remote trails which you can enjoy all to yourself.’ 

View Kate's profile

Guesthouse in Romania

© Lavinia Cernau

Lucy Bailey 

Oman Specialist 

‘The great thing about Oman is that it has something for every kind of traveller. For families, there are some great gentle adventures without the need for extensive travel. And for thrill seekers, there’s plenty of activities to get stuck into in the mountains, including mountain biking, trekking, via ferrata, canyoning and more. Beyond the active pursuits, Oman is a haven for those seeking some relaxation. One of my favourite memories is staying in a private desert camp where we watched the sun set over the dunes, indulged in a delectable candlelit dinner, and supped mint tea beneath a blanket of stars – it was truly unforgettable.’ 

View Lucy's profile

Boat trip in Oman


James Back 

Tanzania Specialist 

‘Although I’m a native of South Africa, my love for East Africa runs deep. My first trip to Tanzania was in October 2004, an experience that left me enamoured with the people, wildlife and awe-inspiring beauty of the country. In those early days, Tanzania was relatively undiscovered in terms of specialist safari experiences, and the food certainly had room for improvement. Since then, the nation has undergone remarkable transformations in its camps, hospitality and overall quality. Today, some of their camps set the benchmark for contemporary design while retaining a wonderfully authentic feel. I've been fortunate to visit Tanzania, including the islands of Zanzibar and Mafia, eight times now. My favourite parts of the country are the quieter, more remote spots such as East Serengeti, Rubondo Island, Ruaha National Park and Mafia Island.’ 

Safari in Tanzania


Header image © Our Habitas Mazunte

Written by Ella Mawson