In one line, what makes you a PUREist?
A passionate belief that travel is one of the most valuable, mind-expanding, life-enriching experiences a person can have.
Tell us your story – how did you get where you are today?
I grew up in New York and studied art history there and later in London at the Courtauld Institute where I did my Masters. After I finished my studies I moved to Southeast Asia and I have lived here now for the last eighteen years (four in Singapore and the last fourteen in Thailand). I became a tour leader in 1999, leading high-end, culturally-focused tours for American companies through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand. I loved this challenging experience. It was a very different world then when compared with today as many of these countries were just coming onto the tourism map. I was based out of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand at this time and when I was not leading tours, I would travel around by motor bike, researching northern Thai mural paintings (a personal interest) and collecting folk art objects in antique shops I’d come across along the way.
In 2004, I took a position with the newly-built Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi as their Director of Cultural Programmes and was charged with setting up a research-quality library for topics on Southeast Asian culture, cultural programmes such as an architectural walking tour for guests and interactive activities for children meant to introduce them to the culture of northern Thailand. It was a one-of-a-kind property which gave me insight into a different aspect of the travel industry as I came to value the role that a hotel/resort is capable of playing in the traveller’s experience of a destination.
In 2007 I joined Rayavadee and Tamarind Village Chiang Mai, two independently-owned, Thai owned properties. My current role is Director of Sales and Marketing. Both properties have a strong Thai identity and sense of place and I am proud to represent them. Tamarind Village is just the sort of property that I like to visit myself when I travel: small, intimate, ‘boutique’ and within walking distance of the city’s most interesting cultural and historical sites: in other words, a perfect base for exploration. Unlike many Directors of Sales and Marketing, I also get to work on exhibitions and cultural events which we stage regularly at the hotel and which are a regular part of the hotel’s offerings helping to make it so unique.
Can you share with us your single most life-enriching experience?
Taking the decision to move to Thailand 14 years ago and having the chance to be immersed in a culture and language different from my own is an experience I would not trade for anything in the world.
What does the term ‘experiential travel’ mean to you?
Travel that invites one to immerse oneself in a place or culture in a deeper and more meaningful way than the normal tourist itinerary allows: to touch some aspect of the people and places visited that enriches you and allows you to grow as a person.
“It is important to follow your own interests and to challenge yourself in whatever form that may take when you travel.”
Describe your ideal client: how do they approach travel?
My ideal client has an open mind and an almost childlike curiosity about the world they are exploring. They don’t post negative feedback on Trip Advisor. (sorry, a joke) 🙂
What made you decide to join PURE Life Experiences and how has doing so benefitted your business?
Mainly it was word of mouth as well as a little research into the concept and what was being offered. Being a part of PURE this year was a great experience for me and for Tamarind Village as it allowed us to reach out to a new network of potential partners from many of our key markets.
What role do you think PURE has to play in the high-end experiential travel industry?
I think it has a significant role to play and has been a real trailblazer in the field, highlighting the best of travel on offer and bringing together passionate travel experts from around the world in an inspirational setting.
What other brands and companies in high-end experiential travel do you admire the most?
There are many of course such as Aman, Six Senses and Como group to name just a few, but I tend to prefer ‘one offs’. I am a lover of small, boutique properties and small tour companies/operators and prefer them to branded chains or larger companies.
If there were one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?
Following trends too closely. It is important to follow your own interests and to challenge yourself in whatever form that may take when you travel. Another might be an elitist approach to travel: great travel experiences can be had within many different budgets. In the end it is about the experience you have which does not always equate with how much you spend.
Finally, who is your experiential hero?
I am not sure I have one. But the travel writer Pico Iyer comes to mind as someone I admire as he has travelled the world and shared his insights in a very personal way through his writings. His essay “Why We Travel” is a favourite of mine and I never get tired of re-reading it when I need a reminder about why travel is such a necessary part of my life.
“My ideal client has an open mind and an almost childlike curiosity about the world they are exploring.”
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