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TheStreet Open House

Site Has Agents Competing to Design Your Luxury Travel

SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) -- Does your dream vacation include a private afternoon tea at Highclere Castle, the setting for the popular television show Downton Abbey?

Or perhaps touring World War II battlegrounds in France with a military general?

Zicasso, a luxury travel service, is touting a revised website that allows users to create such over-the-top, customized, dream vacations.

"Many travelers are not aware of the type of customization and special access that can be possible," says CEO Brian Tan, who started the Zicasso travel service five years ago and is marking the company's anniversary this year with the update.

Rated by Travel + Leisure as one of the best travel websites, the Zicasso site includes more than 1,000 custom itineraries. Those itineraries however, are often just starting points, or serve as examples of what is possible, Tan says.

The newly detailed site is set up to help users create even further customized itineraries of their own. It allows users to design itineraries sorted by country and such themes as romance, shopping, wine and more.

Once the information is submitted, Zicasso turns over a traveler's request to two to three travel specialists who are best qualified to make the dream trip a reality. Each of the specialists designs an itinerary for the traveler to review, basically competing to design the best trip.

"There is no one like us out there," Tan says. "This is a different model in the luxury travel market."

The price tag for such specialized travel is not cheap.

Tan says a customized trip to Italy is about $600 per person, per day. That price includes five-star accommodations and varies by the level of customization travelers request.

The customized afternoon tea at Downton Abbey cost $12,000 for three hours.

"That included the staff at Highclere Castle in costumes -- very much a Downton Abbey experience. It's not something offered and was very specially arranged," Tan says. "They had the castle to themselves and the whole staff catering to their needs, essentially like royalty."

The website redesign appears to be paying off.

Since the relaunch in December, Tan says traffic to the site has increased, as has the time spent on the site by visitors.

"Each visitor is spending 30% more time on average," Tan says. "And they are visiting 20% to 30% more pages per visit, compared to a year ago, which is a great indicator. It means people are much more engaged."

Zicasso has also posted five new trips of a lifetime on its site to mark its fifth anniversary. The destinations for the trips are Italy, South Africa, Brazil, Australia and China.

Highlights of the trips include a visit to a medieval castle for a private Tuscan meal in Italy and a South African wildlife safari with professionally documented photos and videos by a renowned wildlife photographer who accompanies travelers. And in Australia, Zicasso has arranged for travelers to be a "keeper for a day" at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

Zicasso will keep focusing on highlighting for travelers the unique experiences that can be had around the world, Tan says.

"We are constantly telling people, 'Tell us about what sort of experiences you want and the customization or special access you want,' " Tan says. "All we need is the destination, dates and preferred ingredients of your dream trip."

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