Who We Are

Earl Starkey

has been a travel agent for over 30 years. He fell in love with Turkey when he first visited it 20 years ago. For 10 of those years he was mainly working as a corporate travel agent, working for the Chairman's group at KPMG. He started providing tailor-made trips to Turkey in 2001 and in 2002 he started Sophisticated Travel in order to offer trips that offered his guests luxury and comfort combined with a closer cultural, artistic and culinary experience than what was being offered in Turkey at the time. He was name top travel agent for Turkey by National Geographic Traveler and he has been featured in articles on travel to Turkey by Luxury Travel Magazine, New York Magazine, The New York Daily News and The Jewish Daily Forward, and his advice on Turkey has been sought by Virtuoso, a luxury travel consortium. He is also an Epicurean Travel Consultant for Bon Appetit Magazine.

He is most proud to be named Top Travel Specialist for Turkey by Conde Nast Traveler every year since 2001. He is grateful to his partners and staff who continue to provide Sophisticated Travel's guests with memorable and seamless experiences in Turkey.


Selen Badur Yenice

has her MBA in International Economics from Marmara University. She is our Chief Financial Officer and handles our vendor relations. She also organizes our groups and meetings. Along with Earl Starkey, she is one of the founding partners of Sophisticated Travel. Her flawless execution and her close relations with all of our hotels, guides and vendors makes her invaluable for providing our guests with what they want. She comes from a family of gourmet chefs and really knows good food and is an unlimited source of culinary information. She knows which Turkish restaurants have the best food and which chefs provide the best cooking classes. Our primary resource for negotiating with our vendors, and her economic skills makes her an unmeasurable asset to Sophisticated Travel.


Pelin Tuncar

became a partner at Sophisticated Travel in October of 2004. She worked for 12 years for Kuwait Airways. An experienced diver, she arranges all of our gullet and yacht charters. Her familiarity with an exacting international clientele and her organizational skills ensure that your travels with us are memorable and that all of your travel arrangements are perfect.


Riza Yenice

Riza Yenice is lead guide for sophisticated-travel.  He and his  team make up what we think are the best guides to be had in Turkey.

His father was a French speaking professional guide in Turkey and his mother is a retired school teacher, guiding and teaching are part of his heritage. He completed his education at Canakkale University in 2001 and meanwhile received his professional guidance license in 1999.  He is fluent in both Japanese and English and is licensed to guide in both languages.  He has guided many VIP groups from around the world as well as celebrities such as Jodie Foster, Chris Noth and Lakshmi Mittal.  Because of his vast knowledge he is able to provide our guests, not only information on the history of Turkey, but can give them insights into the many layers of Turkish culture.  Every tour he leads is bespoke and unique because of his abilities and his personality. He is much beloved by our guests and we have had guests who return to Turkey, just to spend more time with Riza.  We are so fortunate to have such a gracious and fun-loving guide to lead our team in Turkey.  He is of incomparable value to sophisticated-travel.     


Gulizar Mese

was the manager of a Turkish home cooking cafe, which Sophisticated Travel managed, called Mercimek. When we decided to stop managing the cafe, we implored her to join Sophisticated Travel to oversee our books and accounting. She is so multi-talented that she can manage to keep all of our vendors happy, and keeps all the equipment running in the office. She is a treasure and is the one who manages to take care of all of us to make sure that we can concentrate on our guests. She does all this while also taking care of a family and two children.


Lisa Blackman

is a seasoned professional in the world of marketing and administrative expertise, having worked at such notable firms as Time Warner, KPMG and Polygram Records. She has been an entrepreneur in the world of culinary arts and wine tastings, running her own catering business and offering wine tasting events and wine sales in her 1850 Gothic mansion located in the historic Hudson Valley. Lisa's history working with high level executives as well as leading her own business projects gives her the tools to effectively communicate with clients to maximize their holiday experience.


Banu Kucuksubasi

is our Art Concierge. She has her degree in Art History from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts Academy and her masters in Art Management from Yeditepe University. She is also a licensed guide from Mamara University. She has managed Art Galleries and consulted for Art publications in Istanbul. She has also l lectured at Dogus University and consulted at various universities on cultural policies. She is also a VIP guide for the sponsor of Contemporary Istanbul.
Very well-connected to the flourishing Contemporary Art scene in Istanbul, she can arrange special visits to both public and private collections as well as visits to local artists' studios in Istanbul.