Photo Credit: Katie Farr Photography
It’s 1998 in Sunnmøre, Norway, and a 24-year-old driver/guide with the ink still wet on her license turns off along a winding track above the Geirangerfjord with a twinkle in her eye. It’s the first tour, the first client travelling with Christine Cecilie Gaffney; it’s the start of the 25-year journey that’s made The Luxury Travel Designer the company it is today.

With grit and with graft, this determined single mother forged ahead into the new millennium. Clients in the front seat, daughter Mikaela – now the company’s Client Experience & Brand Coordinator - strapped in the back, she drove out on tour after tour. Every trip tossed another pebble of knowledge and experience onto her growing pile.

Even then, those who travelled with Christine recognized how fiercely committed, how relentless she was on behalf of her clients. They recommended her to friends and fellow-travelers, and her reputation grew. She found herself accompanying high-profile individuals, gravitating to the Nordic luxury travel segment which was to become her specialty. Thus, Christine drew together the threads of the extensive network which still underpins the company today.

Having driven the length and breadth of Scandinavia, Christine took to the waves, establishing a private boat tour company in 2004. Now an entrepreneur, she put to good use the expertise she’d gained from her studies at leading French business school Ecole Nationale de Commerce in Paris. Christine’s secret lies in just this blend of expertise and experience: for her, they come together in the vocation of organizing journeys to brighten people’s lives.

In 2010, Christine took the next step in realizing her vision of Nordic travel. Founding The Travel Designer – as it was then known – put her in a position to shape not only the individual adventure, but the entire travel experience. This was what she’d dreamed of whilst completing her degree in Tour Production all those years ago: a way of connecting travelers with like-minded people; of shaping encounters, creating the conditions in which journeys can become meaningful and inspire.

It quickly became clear that this chimed with the interests of a new generation of travelers seeking alternatives to uninspiring mass-tourism. Demand for the company’s services soared. Growth was explosive; at times, almost overwhelming. But Christine gathered a team of driven professionals around her by offering some of the very best conditions in the industry. Together, they stuck to their principles, refused to lower their standards, and kept on.

Their efforts were rewarded when, in 2018, 2019 and 2020,The Travel Designer was designated a ‘Gazelle’ company by Norwegian business journal Dagens Næringsliv, an accolade reserved for the country’s top 1% most successful businesses. 2019 was a record year, and the company celebrated its tin anniversary in January 2020, changing its name to The Luxury Travel Designer.

Then came COVID-19. Borders closed; revenues were decimated; the only growth was the exponential spread of the virus. Those dedicated few who stayed in post as cancellations piled up made a bold and clear choice: they were going to see this company through, come what may. Through the sacrifices and difficult decisions that were made, this business became more than a business, this team more than a team.

Hunkered down at kitchen tables with the pandemic raging outside, they set off on an inward journey, taking the time to process the wealth of experience which had accrued over the past decade. They learned the lessons of the company’s successes, and its shortcomings. Gradually, a new vision of what this business could become started to emerge.

As restrictions eased, they resurfaced; leaner, more focused, fit for the future. 2022 saw the launch of two pioneering new ventures: Due North, for experiential, ultra-luxury adventure travel on an unlimited budget; and Due North Air, for private helicopter exploration of the entire Nordic region. Land, sea, and now sky; Christine and her team do it all.

Meanwhile, The Luxury Travel Designer continues to grow from strength to strength, staying true to its core business of connecting people with people.