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Conde Nast names NZ’s Jean-Michel Jefferson

Conde Nast names NZ’s Jean-Michel Jefferson on exclusive global list

New Zealand has another ace in its tourism pack – outside of the film world.

His name is Jean-Michel Jefferson of Ahipara Travel and he has just been named in the renowned Conde Nast Travelers’ 13th annual Top Travel Specialists’ list.

Conde Nast’s travel magazine is read by more than three million people, with even more linking in through its website and tablet application. Its readership has a slight skew to women, but all its readers are likely to be educated and in well-paid jobs.

The Top Travel Specialists list is also known as the Readers’ Choice Awards. That means those who make it “have all been road-tested by Condé Nast Traveler readers, editors, or both”. Jean-Michel Jefferson is the only NZ domiciled specialist to get his own profile page.

Jean-Michel runs Ahipara Travel, a boutique tourism company, from Central Otago with his wife Karen. Jean-Michel says they have focused on delivering unique and real New Zealand experiences to travellers for the past 10 years.

“None of our trips are the same – we tailor make them,” Jean-Michel says. “They might generally focus on sight-seeing, adrenaline, discovery, sport, food and wine, hunting and fishing, or touring by helicopter, but we have never repeated the same one.

“There are pretenders in every market, but we have stubbornly stuck to our vision and we have been delighted to have people support us who share the same passion for New Zealand and authenticity of the experiences we provide.”

Conde Nast director Wendy Perrin says of the more than 10,000 travel agents and tour operators who have tried to break onto this list since its inception 12 years ago, only a tiny fraction have made the grade—this year a mere 133 specialists from around the world.

“Getting into this group is, statistically speaking, tougher than getting into Harvard,” Perrin says. “Travel planners collected here represent the best blend of destination knowledge, insider connections, user-friendliness, and value for your dollar that I’ve found in more than two decades of scrutinizing the travel industry for this magazine.”

It is Jean-Michel’s second accolade in a few months. He was also named as one of the world’s top travel agents in its “A List 2012” by the American Express magazine Travel + Leisure, which is also read by millions. The exclusive list of only 130 travel agents around the world is difficult to get on because only agents who offer what is judged to be truly different experiences for travellers make it.

Ahipara has put together trips ranging from NZ$5000 to nearly NZ$1 million. Many regular clients are from the United States, but the Jefferson’s also have a strong following from East and West Europe.

The pair, who met when they were in high flying corporate careers in London, worked in Russia and were fluent in the language before Karen convinced Jean-Michel to bring up their young family in her home country.

“Jean-Michel is now one of New Zealand’s most passionate advocates for its people, places and opportunities,” Karen says.


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