Written by Elizabeth McCabe Interview by Melanie Simon, Tierra Verde Resident
“I’ve always been in love with travel,” says Paul Zulkoski, owner of Blue Marble Explorer Premium Vacation Travel. “In fact, I can boast that I’ve been to all 50 states in the USA!” “I got exposed early on to travel. My parents took my brother and I across the country in our station wagon a few times. Those trips were our Clark Griswold family vacations!”, laughed Paul. During those 1970’s adventures Paul saw a vast variety of sights while going coast to coast, north and south… everything from big cities like San Francisco, National Parks such as Yellowstone, and many oddities along the way, including the kitschy Wall Drug (South Dakota).
Paul began his 25-year career in the cable television industry in the mid-80’s, holding positions in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Colorado. His last position, which was in Denver, was as Senior Director of Sales and Marketing with several popular cable networks. Paul traveled weekly to cable television systems throughout the entire western USA for about a dozen years… which further increased his appreciation for the unique sites seen while traveling. But after hearing that his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Paul left Denver and moved to Boca Raton to help his father.
Once in the Sunshine State, Paul made the decision to transition from the “industry he knew well” to the “industry of his dreams”… the travel industry. “I’ve been in the travel industry since I moved to Florida. I was with Norwegian Cruise Lines in their sales department for a year and then decided I wanted to have my own independent travel agency. I started on that path with Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Ft Lauderdale as an independent agent. And then when I moved west to Tierra Verde I chose to switch my host agency from Expedia to Avoya Travel, and I started my new agency, Blue Marble Explorer Premium Vacation Travel.”
Blue Marble Explorer Premium Vacation Travel is part of the Avoya Travel Network, which is associated with American Express. The American Express partnership frequently allows Paul to offer his clients greater rates and promotions than normally can’t be found by individuals looking to make their own travel reservations. When describing what “Premium Vacation Travel” means, Paul was quick to describe his clients as affluent and desiring to make plans on high-end vacations lasting 1-2 weeks or more. “We don’t do weekend cruises to the Bahamas”, he said. “We work with all the major cruise lines, but I especially like working with clients who are looking for a land vacation. Putting together a land trip to Italy, France, Thailand or other exotic locations is fun, and I learn a lot of new things! I’ve recently been working with a client on putting together her dream trip of bringing her kids to Peru, where her family originated. I had no idea that there is so much more to Peru than Machu Pichu!”
Interestingly, Paul met his wife Vicky on a trip he made to Thailand. When he was forced to cancel a Caribbean cruise due to an emergency appendectomy (fortunately he had travel insurance to get a full refund of the cruise cost!), he decided to book a trip to Thailand instead. After meeting Vicky there was an immediate bond, and Paul returned to Bangkok 5 times to be with her over the course of two years. They had a traditional Thai wedding celebration in northern Thailand, and then officially got married in the Florida Keys. Now, of course, Thailand is one of Paul’s favorite places to visit. But Italy still remains his favorite destination.
Why Choose A Travel Agent?
When it comes to choosing a travel agent, it makes sense to leave trip planning to the professionals for multiple reasons. Not only does it save stress and time, it can also save money. Contrary to popular belief, it does not cost more to book a trip through a travel agent. Paul receives his compensation directly from the vendors rather than his clients. Also, Paul is quick to note that he has access to deals that others do not have. Thanks to his company’s partnership with the Avoya Travel Network and American Express, prices are often less than expected and exclusive promotions are frequently available.
Paul helps set himself up above his competition by taking advantage of travel industry continuing education programs. Each year he attends several conferences and meets with numerous travel vendors to get updates on cruises, land vacations, destinations and more.
Paul also helps his clients choose the correct travel insurance to protect them in the event of trip cancellations or interruptions due to unexpected medical emergencies or other unforeseen events. Saving money – and safeguarding the travel investement – is important for clients.
Finally, Paul stated he’s readily available to his clients all the way through to the completion of their trip. “I’ve heard from many Book-It-Myself type people that when they encountered problems with a reservation they made on their own, they were more often than not bounced around from one customer service rep to another. And frequently they had to make multiple calls, both before AND during their trip. With me as your agent, I take this stress off your shoulder and do my best to provide peace of mind to all my clients.”
Paul and his wife Vicky have lived in Tierra Verde since 2017. They absolutely love it and can’t imagine living anywhere else.