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Oh, the absurd demands of the luxury traveller!

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Award-winning agent hosts high-flyers...

Making sure a professional table tennis player is on hand for a quick game or re-enacting waka arriving in New Zealand are just some of the things an Auckland travel agent has done for her well-heeled clients - and her personal touch has seen her win a prestigious accolade.

Jacqui Spice, owner of Touch of Spice, has been selected as a "top travel specialist" for 2011 by American Conde Nast Traveler magazine for her knack in pulling off the impossible for her clients.

From the ordinary - well, if being taken out on a luxury launch before a chef cooks fresh crayfish counts as ordinary - to the absurd, Spice`s company goes out of the way to make sure clients experience "the real New Zealand, with a twist of luxury".

"We cater for the discerning middle to high-end client and make sure their holiday is personalised and that there is always someone on call with our concierge service.

"So, we don`t just arrange champagne on a mountain top - we`ll even add music. We`ll get a soloist or even a classical duet. Or we`ll arrange for them to hit golf balls from the top of The Remarkables. If they want to see a re-enactment of the waka arriving in New Zealand, we`ll arrange that too."

Spice won`t reveal her client list, but says some are often in the media spotlight while others are wealthy clients the public may have never heard of. And it really is about pulling off the impossible.

"We had a client who needed us to take the temperature of his bath water every day to make sure it was perfect. We also had to make sure the water cylinder`s temperature was exactly the same every day," she said of one client who stayed in a luxury villa in Queenstown for three months.

"We also had to fly him every day by helicopter to the local events centre so that he could play table tennis and we also had to arrange a table tennis professional to play with him."

The holidays with specialised itineraries created by the Touch of Spice team can start at $10,000 and even hit the $200,000 mark for two stops, which would generally include Auckland and another destination such as the Bay of Islands, Taupo or Queenstown.

And the price tag means no request is too big for Spice and her team. Some of those include taking photographs of employees lying on beds so the client can inspect the firmness of the mattress from afar, as well as photographing fruit so clients can inspect the colour to arranging a black Bentley to chauffeur clients from one vineyard to the next.

The cost will also factor in whether the clients travel by private jet, use a helicopter or need a ride in a limousine through the snow from Christchurch Airport to Queenstown in the early hours of the morning when airlines aren`t operating.

Touch of Spice has offices in Auckland and Queenstown and 15 staff who oversee personalised holidays, corporate functions, villa stays and weddings, and provide a 24/7 concierge service.

The Conde Nast accolade has boosted the company with the team adding a wider portfolio of luxury villas in France and Australia.

"It`s absolutely fantastic to be a niche operator and to be recognised by an international group. I started the company six years ago from home, so to be recognised among the best makes me very proud," Spice said.

This is the fourth year Spice has been recognised by the magazine - she has also been named a "top villa specialist" in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

www.stuff.co.nz Auckland Now
AMY MAAS

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