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The Luxurious Lives of Preferred Travelers

The exalted lives of the preferred customers
Jonathan Nouri's favorite wine will be waiting for him wherever in the world he checks in
Jonathan Nouri's favorite wine will be waiting for him wherever in the world he checks inPhotograph by Mathew Scott for Bloomberg Businessweek

As president of Lucini Italia, a premium olive oil brand based in Miami, David Neuman frequently shuttles back and forth between Tuscany and South America. Neuman is a million-mile flier with United Air Lines and a Platinum-level member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the international luxury chain (it includes Westin, Sheraton, and W Hotels), with whom he has spent more than 1,000 nights across 40 countries. Three years ago, in an effort to lure more customers like Neuman, Starwood devised a test program wherein a select group of a few thousand of its preferred guests was given their own personal concierge, available to them 24 hours a day—and not just when they’re staying at a Starwood hotel, but anytime. Starwood dubbed them “Ambassadors,” and assigned one to Neuman. Neuman’s Ambassador is named Sharon, and he calls her “my angel.”

Sharon earned her wings by planning trips like one to Bangkok that offers a glimpse of the lifestyle afforded to hard-core travelers like Neuman. “I’d gone to Thailand to go to cooking school, and had spent the first week living in a remote hut in Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand,” Neuman says. “I was dirty and tired and very nervous about arriving in Bangkok at night by myself, because I’d never been there before and knew only that the airport is far away from downtown.” Beyond the destination, he had given no instructions, leaving Sharon to arrange “a relaxing getaway.” All he was told is that he would be greeted at the airport.