Travel agent Lloyd Morris savours the flavours of Californian wine and takes in the state’s sights at a canter. He describes the highlights of his Cover Stars trip to Harry Kemble.
Q. What encouraged you to enter Cover Stars this year?
A. I know some people who have done it in the past and have said it was amazing because it was a chance to go to a once-in-a-lifetime destination. Over the years when I have seen Cover Stars it had been more of a makeover trip, but our trip was slighly different with the itinerary more geared towards the destination, which I liked. The itinerary covered all California has to offer – the beach, countryside and Los Angeles. California is not somewhere I would normally get the chance to travel to.
Q. What was the flight out like?
A. I had never flown business class before, so that was a great experience. In previous years Cover Stars has been more about shopping but this year it was more about the excursions and sightseeing, which was good because you get to see the destination more. I have flown business class twice since. If your customers have the money, I would recommend suggesting it. The seats are so comfortable – I slept all the way home.
Q. How did you find LA?
A. Before I went I had heard some mixed reviews but I thought it was amazing. We stayed in West Hollywood at the Mondrian Hotel and from there we went on a bike tour of Beverly Hills, and the guide told us whch celebrity had lived in each house, like Michael Jackson. I really like his music so it was surreal to see where he lived. The bike tour was one of my three highlights, alongside wine tasting and seeing the Hollywood sign.
Q. Where was your next stop after LA?
A. We headed up to Pismo Beach where we stayed at Inn at the Pier. The decor was lots of blues and whites, which gave it a beachy kind of feel. If you think of LA you think of the hustle and bustle, but Pismo Beach was much more relaxed. After Pismo we went up to San Luis Obispo, which wasn’t how I’d imagined California to be. There was a farmers’ market there and it felt more like the UK. Although we were not far from LA, it was so different, with a small-town feel. I preferred it to LA because I am from a small town myself – Bridgend.
Q. Where was your photoshoot?
A. We did it in the sand dunes at Pismo Beach. Even though I take the odd selfie, I’m not that bothered about pictures of myself. But the professional photographer we had was there to tell me where to stand. I wore shorts, a purple T-shirt and black high tops. I was standing by a dune buggy with my helmet off. I should have taken a mirror because my hair was all messy.
Q. Where else did you go on the trip?
A. We headed up to Creston Ranch, where we rode horses. I used to showjump when I was a kid, so it was a great experience for me. We went out for about an hour. It was like riding in the outback or through a no man’s land.
Q. What were your highlights?
A. The highlight for me was the wine tasting at Tolosa. I have always wanted to do a tasting in California – and it lived up to my expectations. I also really liked our night in Santa Cruz. We had a few drinks and the atmosphere was amazing. It was next to the boardwalk, and you could see all the rides even though it was the off season. I can imagine it being really vibrant in the summer with the rides open and music being played.
Lloyd’s sales tips
- Always try to upsell to premium or business class if customers can afford it.
- In California you can create packages with experiences your clients may not think to do.
- Do the Visit California training – it teaches you about places you would not have been to.
Lloyd on . . . wine tasting
The wine tasting at Tolosa Winery was a massive highlight of the trip for me. The vineyard was spectacular and the sun was going down which created a fantastic setting. The group had just finished the dune buggying, so adrenalin was very high. The tour took us from the start of the wine production process to the end product. Over the years I have become a massive wine fan and have always wanted to visit a winery but never got around to it, so when I saw this on the itinerary I was excited. It was amazing to see how they produce the wine and the work that goes in to it. It was also really good to have a professional talk us through the process and describe the different tastes. When we were drinking the wine I could taste the difference in the wines the winery produced. You could tell I liked it as people were laughing at me because I was asking so many questions.