Rebecca was destined to work in the luxury travel business, having grown up with an award-winning hotelier father and therefore being introduced to every aspect of running a five-star hotel. Her early years found her in every department of the hotel, from housekeeping to reception to waitressing in the Michelin-starred restaurant and working at the spa. After receiving a First Class Honors Degree in hospitality management, Rebecca served as sales executive and marketing manager at The Chester Grosvenor and Spa, and was also a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, UK & Ireland marketing committee. Capitalizing on this industry experience, Rebecca created Rebecca Recommends (formerly known as Highgrove Associates) after making the much dreamed of move to America in 2004. She is a member of the Carriage Trade Association, San Francisco chapter, and an Honorary Goodwill Tourism Ambassador of Nepal.
Favorite travel destination: This is always a tough question to answer as I think it depends on what you feel you “need” from a trip. Right now, for me, it’s Nepal. I really miss the mountains, the food and the people when I leave. I still love going to Barbados, particularly The Coral Reef Club, with my family. There’s something magical about horseback riding in the English countryside, although honestly, I love horseback riding in any country with incredible or dramatic scenery: New Zealand, India, Poland. And I do so love cities, too, from Mexico City to Paris, Mumbai to Melbourne, and, of course, London.
Carla’s professional career has been spent entirely in sales and marketing, with the past fifteen years dedicated to the luxury travel industry. Most recently, she worked as Director of Tours and On-Sites at Virtuoso, a luxury travel consortium, and has additionally worked with hotels, travel agencies and cruise lines. Her love of travel and adventure has taken her to all seven continents and inspired her to earn her Certified Travel Industry Executive certification and Destination Specialist designation in Africa. She is also a member of the APTA, the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa. Carla is a self-professed Anglophile and first discovered The Goring hotel (a Rebecca Recommends partner) in the 1980s – she’s been a devoted fan ever since!
What’s the one item you don’t leave home without when you’re traveling? My passport case. I received it when I was 15 years old for my first trip to Europe. It’s now worn and a bit tattered from years of use, but I never go on a trip with it – a little superstition!
Samantha grew up in a small market town in the beautiful countryside of North Wales. She developed a passion for travel at a very early age when she had the opportunity to spend three months travelling and working her way across central and western France experiencing the culture and getting to know the people. Samantha’s love of hotels initially took her to the Cotswolds where she took a trainee management position working in all areas of the hotel business from kitchen to restaurant, housekeeping and reception. A move to London was the stepping stone to start her travel adventure working operationally and progressing her career as part of the front of house team at several of the cities iconic 5* luxury hotels before moving into sales and marketing.
Samantha’s career in Sales & Marketing spans more than two decades, she honed her sales and marketing skills as the UK representative for the then privately owned hotel consortium Design Hotels. As the European Sales Representative, she travelled throughout Europe before joining the team at the leisure group of hotels, Island Outpost with hotels located in Miami, Jamaica and the Bahamas then owned by former record producer Chris Blackwell of Island Records fame. This led on to her appointment as a brand ambassador for the new opening portfolio of Sofitel hotels worldwide travelling extensively to introduce the new openings to travel advisors.
Samantha later joined The Chester Grosvenor as Director of Sales and Marketing and worked alongside Jonathan Slater to drive the hotel sales and accolades before becoming part of Oddfellows Management Company in 2015.
Exciting times ahead: I am a great believer that the best things in life happen for a reason – the opportunity to join the Rebecca Recommends team is just too exciting for words and will allow me the opportunity to continue to introduce exciting destinations and hotels to our travel partners. There is no greater reward than inspiring travel through shared experiences, education and knowledge. With a very supportive husband who shares my passion for travel – I am truly fortunate and so looking forward to the next adventure.
When Carol was twelve, she had saved enough money from her daily paper route to purchase a ten-day trip to Germany – she had long dreamed of traveling far and wide from her roots in the Midwest. After college, Carol moved to New York City and elbowed her way into the world of advertising as an account executive, later leaving advertising to raise three children with her husband, Shaun. When her youngest child began first grade, Carol went back to school to study landscape design and began transforming clients’ outdoor living spaces throughout New York and Connecticut, drawing inspiration from gardens around the world. In 2010, Carol turned in her trowel to help a friend begin a professional development company designed to help teachers understand and use classroom reading technology. Carol believes that the opportunity to work with Rebecca Recommends was fate, as it combines her strong skill set and her love of travel.
What’s next on your travel bucket list? Next up for me is Sri Lanka. I am obsessed with it and hope that this next year will be the year! Of course, our partners, the Resplendent Ceylon properties, would be first on my list of reasons for wanting to travel there, but I’m just as smitten with the unspoiled beauty of the island, the verdant hillsides and gardens for walking, the aquamarine waters for kayaking and the opportunities to experience pilgrimage sites like Adam’s Peak and the Temple of the Tooth Relic. And soon a leopard camp? You’ve got to be kidding – sign me up!
Cindy’s near decade as an elementary school teacher taught her patience and organization, which have translated wonderfully to a career in the travel industry. She was first tempted with a role as a personal cruise consultant, in which she escorted groups to the Caribbean and Alaska. She has since furthered her travel career with expertise in special events, training, sales development and marketing – all valuable traits in her role with Rebecca Recommends.
Favorite travel destination: The UK, and staying at our partner, The Goring. The staff is so warm and welcoming and I always feel right at home. I long to visit again!
My first trip abroad was on a school trip, and at 16 years old I was fortunate to visit Egypt, Israel, Greece and Turkey. Being able to visit places I’d only ever read about was magical - the Pyramids in Giza, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Acropolis of Athens, The Palace of Knossos in Crete and the ruins of Lasos in Milas, Turkey. It gave me a passion for travel which has never left me. Following a summer spent in Canada, I went on to study Hospitality in College and worked in a hotel in London for a short while. I soon discovered I was more excited about organising travel for others and enjoyed a career working for American Express Business Travel in London. I put my career on hold whilst I raised my beautiful family. I am delighted to be joining the team at Rebecca Recommends where I have been given the opportunity to pursue something I once enjoyed again, now that my children are older. With my husband also working in the hotel industry, we are certainly keeping it in the family in our house!
My favourite travel moment: Arriving in Hong Kong, the first destination on my honeymoon, and experiencing the extreme diversity of this magical City with its sights, sounds and smells - it was truly unforgettable.
Brenda Neilson Hansen
Brenda Neilson Hansen is an experienced systems administrator, with a strong background managing server infrastructures across Linux and Windows platforms. She has effectively planned, installed, configured and optimized IT infrastructures to achieve high availability and performance, and is trained in five different computer programming languages. Her proven ability to create and deliver solutions tied to business growth and organizational development make her a valuable asset to the Rebecca Recommends team. She’s a skilled problem identifier and troubleshooter who is comfortable managing systems, projects and teams in a range of IT environments. In addition to looking after the Rebecca Recommends brochure fulfilment, all IT support and technical needs, Brenda helps run Fox Den Farm in Pennsylvania with her Danish husband, Peter, and their four children, and a menagerie of horses, dogs, cats, chickens and guinea pigs.
Favorite travel destination: I am a huge fan of the great outdoors and enjoy horseback riding, hiking, skiing and walking. I took a trip with family to Arizona and Utah that included Zion National Park and I would love to further explore this wonderful expanse of nature.
Charlie Williams serves as a non-executive director of Rebecca Recommends and brings with him a wealth of operational experience from over 12 years in the luxury hospitality industry. He currently serves as the Director of Membership and Hospitality at Promontory in Oakville, California. Charlie's understanding of the high-end five-star market is due, in large part, to the various leadership positions held to date in both rooms and food and beverage. All of the properties at which he has worked are ranked Forbes Five-Star. He was an Acorn Award winner in 2012 – awarded to future stars of the hospitality industry as nominated by their peers and colleagues for their flair and good work. It is these very talents – and a passion for travel and discovering, and sharing with the world, the finer things in life – that benefit the Rebecca Recommends portfolio. When he’s not hard at work, Charlie can be found pursuing his other passions: cooking, wine, sports, photography, wildlife and, of course, travel.
Image Ark creative studio is nestled in the heart of the historical city of Patan in Nepal, in a beautifully restored traditional brick and dark wood house. The studio specializes in contemporary communication through graphic design, photography, film production, web design and product development. Image Ark’s founder, Marie Ange Sylvain, fell in love with Nepal many years ago and decided to call it home. With her team, a dynamic group of young Nepali artists and communication professionals, she turns the place into a creative and constantly buzzing hive.
With their ground-floor contemporary art gallery opening on an outside courtyard and two temples, the place aims at welcoming new energies and people and hardly a day goes by without making new acquaintances!
It is their common love for Nepal that brought Rebecca and Marie Ange together. This beautiful encounter gave birth to a very harmonious collaboration for Rebecca Recommends’ Design for Life humanitarian project, with Image Ark coordinating design and production. The team takes much pleasure in designing and monitoring the products’ fabrication and quality: “Is this the right shade? Is this pashmina soft enough?” For the Image Ark team, Design for Life is a wonderful opportunity to participate in Rebecca’s incredible efforts to help Nepal and its artisans and, the products are just pure happiness.