Location: South and Southern Africa, East Africa and India
In one line, what makes you a PUREist?
Adventuring and exploring. I was lucky enough to be born into it and once bitten I never looked back!
Tell us your story – how did you get where you are today?
My grandfather and my father were both soldiers and were constantly on the move. After the Mau Mau insurrection in Kenya and the land reclamation programme of post-independence Kenya, they moved out of farming and founded and built up Abercrombie & Kent. I grew up surrounded by the excitement and the travel that ensued. My most formative training was working as a professional guide across Africa – I realised I could change people’s lives through the experience I gave them.
Prior to joining the safari industry in a leadership capacity, I joined the British Armed Forces and trained at the Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst). Thereafter I worked as a business analyst, graduated with a Harvard MBA and spent two years as a management consultant with Bain & Co in the USA and UK. I re-joined A&K as Chief Operating Officer, then climbed the ranks to Managing Director and finally took up the post of Global CEO in 2010.
With a firm belief in andBeyond’s commitment to making a difference, I joined the company as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2012.
Can you share with us your single most life-enriching experience?
Going overland, by Land Rover, from London to Nairobi back in 1998. It took three months and we traversed through Europe; Turkey; Syria (Western Desert, Aleppo, Homs… It is unbelievable to think what has happened to this wonderful country since then); Jordan; the Sinai Desert; Saudi Arabia; an incredible desert safari across the Empty Quarter in Yemen; and on through the Hadramut Valley to Aden, Djibouti (where we spent time in a French Foreign Legion R&R camp). We then went onto Sudan into Ethiopia (in search of the Rastafarian promised land of Shashamane, which turned out to be a depressing dustbowl of nothingness!). Finally, we made it to Laikipia in Kenya in time for Christmas. An epic journey and so many experiences you could not buy even with all the money in the world.
What does the term ‘experiential travel’ mean to you?
Experiential travel is priceless and unique. The extraordinary travel experiences that compel people to travel can change people’s lives for the better. The more I travel, the more I feel that people want to understand the issues, learn, grow, get involved and, most importantly, get a better understanding of how the world its wildlife, its heritage and its people are woven into such a rich tapestry.
Describe your ideal client: how do they approach travel?
They know the best places, they have fun and they enjoy new experiences. They understand that experiential travel is not about scaling back on comfort or enjoyment; it’s about choosing to travel responsibly. At andBeyond we call it, “Doing Well by Doing Good”. Our clients are curious – they ask questions and look to enrich their memories and expand their understanding of the people and places they encounter. They will head off the beaten track to try new things, taste different foods, etc.
What made you decide to join PURE Life Experiences and how has doing so benefitted your business?
PURE’s mission statement totally resonates with me personally and is completely aligned with andBeyond’s vision and what we offer our guests. It has given us a great platform to share our ideas and meet likeminded professionals in the industry. Ultimately it has to help us sell to justify our time and investment, and it has done just that.
What role do you think PURE has to play in the high-end experiential travel industry?
Over the past few years there has been a new wave of experiential travellers – a move from simply seeing to truly experiencing – and it continues to be an important way to broaden horizons whilst giving something back in exchange. We have a duty to protect the very things the tourism industry relies on and PURE brings together some of the most informed and passionate personalities who have the resources to effect real change.
What other brands and companies in high-end experiential travel do you admire the most?
- Louis Vuitton – in terms of their increasing ability to complement their high end luxury brand positioning with more experiential travel-related themes
- Wild Frontiers – another very interesting company that very much reflects the PUREist aesthetic
- AFAR – the way forward as far as I am concerned in terms of travel magazines (offline and online)
- COMO hotels – it blends experiential elements with sublime luxury and incredible service; not an easy mix and they do it effortlessly
If there were one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?
To take experiential tourism seriously – it is not simply a buzz word, PR stunt or the latest fad; it is vital to protecting the planet we live on today and respecting the environments that people live in. Experiential tourism involves active participation, involvement and immersion and this needs to be recognised across the industry.
Finally, who is your experiential hero?
Ray Mears, the survival skills presenter… He is the real deal, combining real empathy for the wilderness areas he explores and the indigenous people that inhabit them, an innate sense of the fragile state of our planet and extraordinary survival skills.
“Experiential tourism involves active participation, involvement and immersion and this needs to be recognised across the industry.”
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