Story and photos by Annie Fitzsimmons – Virtuoso
In the world of luxury travel, “Luxe Tiffany” – Boston-based Tiffany Dowd – shines bright. As the founder and president of Luxe Social Media and a freelance journalist for various travel publications (including her own, Luxe Tiffany), Dowd travels the world one to two weeks a month sharing her adventures on social media and writing about them.
We caught up with Dowd to find out how she kickstarted her career and ask about her favorite hotels, best travel tips, and more.
How did you get started?
My roots are in journalism. I studied broadcast journalism at the University of Southern California and earned my master’s degree in business and economics journalism at Boston University.
I started my company back in 2009 leveraging both my education and experience as the director of sales and marketing for a family-run hotel in the Caribbean and as a hotel inspector for a major luxury travel publication. Hotels were doing traditional marketing and PR, but not this new thing called “social media.” I saw the opportunity to create a business managing and promoting hotels through social media, and today work with some of the most exclusive luxury hotels in the world. My company also manages social media for brands and celebrity personalities.
Luxe Tiffany began when I was traveling frequently as a hotel inspector. I would share every place I was visiting on social media, give travel tips, and highlight anything I loved while traveling. Over the years, I built a following that trusts as Luxe Tiffany and established a name as a global luxury hotel expert, sharing travel inspiration.
What’s your advice for people wanting to work in luxury travel?
I developed my business on strong relationships. Each one of my clients is a result of years of networking personally and professionally, and there’s a mutual trust. It’s important to network as much as you can, join industry groups, and participate in events. Find a mentor – someone you trust, who will challenge the way you think, inspire you, and offer you a different perspective. A dear friend, a CEO outside of my industry, has become my go-person for business advice and has helped me grow my business in a positive direction over the years. In social media, you must be authentic to earn trust. People ask me all the time how many followers I have. I don’t focus on this. I believe in sharing good content, and if you’re authentic in what you do and what you say, people will follow.
What’s your typical day?
I’m fortunate that there’s no typical day at work – each is filled with new and exciting challenges. I know it sounds cliché, but if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Luxe Social Media is busy creating and managing social media content and strategy for a portfolio of clients across multiple time zones and on five continents. We work seven days a week for our clients monitoring online reputations and engaging guests and followers. I’m fortunate to work with some of the nicest and most professional people in the industry. Some of our busiest days are when travel awards are announced, because we get to share all the great news about our clients on social media who are rated the best in the world.
How do you stay on top of the latest social media innovations? What’s your advice to people who get overwhelmed with all of it?
I often hear people say they love Instagram but just don’t get Twitter. That’s okay. Find what you love and embrace it. You don’t have to love every social media platform. I’m active on the most popular channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat – because I need to see how each continues to evolve and which new features work best for my clients. Sometimes people rush to jump on new social media platforms because they hear it’s cool and think they need to be there. Luxe Social Media guides our clients to focus on channels that will be most impactful for their businesses.
As social media in travel is all about visual inspiration, we focus mainly on Instagram as the top channel, then Facebook and Twitter. With the launch of Instagram Stories, it allowed us to tap into an already established and engaged following in keeping with the hotel brand messaging. We find that Snapchat is less relevant now with the rising popularity of Instagram Stories. We continue to monitor new platforms as they emerge and are continuously evaluating new features on existing platforms.
Further, no matter what social media platforms we market on, it is important that we understand our clients. A luxury resort in the Caribbean, for instance, will have a very different message and tone than a luxury hotel in Paris. Many of our clients are family-owned and operated hotels, so we need to understand the ethos of each in order to convey a genuine message.
What’s on your short list of favorite hotels?
The Peninsula Hong Kong is so iconic, with flawless service. The spa is wonderful, and the glimmering views of Hong Kong are incredible. The Beverly Hills Hotel is my happy place. It’s old Hollywood glamour at its finest. The Brando in French Polynesia is magical, a true private island paradise. The Lanesboroughin London is elegant and warm – British luxury the way it should be. I absolutely love the private art collection at The Ellerman House in Cape Town, South Africa – along with its panoramic ocean views. My husband, J.B., and I enjoy Jade Mountain in Saint Lucia when we want to get away from it all. The sanctuaries have no fourth wall, and feature direct views of the famous Pitons. The resort’s Jade cuisine is sourced from their organic farm. A sentimental favorite of mine is the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai because my grandfather was a popular Chinese jazz singer at this hotel in the 1930s when it was the Cathay Hotel. In general, I love hotels that have a storied history and capture a sense of place.
Which destinations do you return to, time and again?
Turks and Caicos is my home away from home. The 12 miles of powdery white sand beach along Grace Bay are second to none. We got married on Providenciales and honeymooned on Parrot Cay. I visit several times a year and love seeing my friends there, who are like family.
I absolutely love Cape Town. I always know I am in love with a place when I’m trying to figure out how to return, and I haven’t even left yet. Hong Kong energizes me. It’s buzzy and cosmopolitan and has some of the best food, shopping, and luxury hotels in the world.
I love returning to my hometown of Palos Verdes, California and staying at Terranea Resort. I live in Boston now, and to be able to stay in my hometown at this resort on the magnificent cliffs of Palos Verdes is a perfect escape. It recharges my batteries.
I’ll always return to Vancouver, where my parents were born and raised. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its ocean and mountain views. My maternal great-grandfather, Won Alexander Cumyow, was the first Chinese man born in Canada and has a plaque and mural commemorating him in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
What’s your travel fitness routine?
I exercise for both physical and mental well-being – it’s also one of my best tips for jet lag recovery. Exercise helps you sleep better; if I can’t get to a gym, I’m always out walking, doing yoga exercises in my room, and maintaining some level of activity. I’m not fanatical – if a fitness class is called boot camp you won’t find me there – but I’m consistent.
I was a competitive gymnast when I was younger, training with the Olympic team coach five hours a day, five days a week. It instilled in me a strong fitness ethic that carries with me today. I love visiting Europe because it’s so nice to walk around the charming streets and plazas. It’s also why I love the beach –there’s nothing more wonderful in the morning than going for a long walk on the beach and returning to a nice cup of coffee. I don’t smoke or drink alcohol, but as for food, I do like to try the local cuisine. It’s impossible to go to Italy and deny yourself pasta dishes or homemade gelato, but there’s balance in everything. When I’m home, I eat healthy and simple foods. I also pack Emergen-C packets and drink one every day to boost my immune system.
What do you never leave home without?
I travel everywhere with my Hermes cashmere shawl. It’s the perfect size to keep you warm on an airplane, and a chic staple in my wardrobe. It’s an investment piece, but worth it. I always pack sunscreen. I love EltaMD UV Clear because it’s travel-sized and lightweight – I even wear sunscreen on an airplane. For beauty products, I like to travel with NARS Illuminator, which gives you a nice glow and makes you look refreshed. Lancome’s Hypnose Drama mascara in Excessive Black brightens up your eyes. I’m obsessed with La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Eye Lift Cream. It’s my splurge item, and I try to find it at Duty Free in airports. It really does work.
In my carry-on, I always pack a dress, a pair of heels, Havaianas, a Melissa Odabash bikini and some workout clothes. If my bags get lost, I have my essentials. I’m not a carry-on kind of girl – I love my shoes too much and need options to feel glamorous. As for tech, my iPhone and my laptop are my mobile office. I can work from anywhere.
Do you have any travel rituals or souvenirs you always pick up?
I enjoy cooking, so I try to find things I can use in the kitchen. Recently, I bought some fragrant cinnamon and nutmeg from Grenada, Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka, and honey from Tetiaroa in French Polynesia. I also go crazy for bags of dried porcini mushrooms from Italy. It’s such a luxury to add these ingredients to a dish and know it came from some wonderful place abroad.
I am a big advocate and supporter of animal rescue organizations. When I travel, I always donate to local animal rescue groups and share on social media to raise awareness. Two of my favorites in the Turks and Caicos are Potcake Place and the Turks and Caicos Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. My dog Noni Bear is a rescue dog from Turks and Caicos, found two hours old in a bush, and is now 14 years old. At home, we support the Animal Rescue League of Boston. I am proud to have established a voice on social media where I can raise awareness of causes that are important to me.
Top photo: Tiffany Dowd in Bora Bora.