Newport Jets is pleased to share an interview we did with Brown +Hudson, for travel that works perfectly with private jet charter travel around the world.
Tell a friend you are going to Patagonia or Nepal or Madagascar and they may tell you “I’ve done that.” But if your travel was arranged by Brown + Hudson you can gleefully reply, “No, you haven’t.”
That’s because Brown + Hudson travel is extremely personal. Every itinerary they create is unique to the last detail. There is no template used. Each travel experience is created from a series of personal questions designed to discover the intricate details of what might make your experience truly extraordinary. Brown + Hudson calls this level of customization “truly bespoke,” because each trip is handcrafted—like a fine suit.
Founding partner Philippe Brown was a world traveler before Brown + Hudson and had many years experience working in the luxury active travel industry designing, guiding and managing trips around the globe. It wasn’t until he came across William Henry Hudson, author of Idle Days in Patagonia, that the concept of highly personalized, truly bespoke travel became a mission. With that mission at the core of Brown + Hudson travelers the world over are experiencing destinations in a way no one else has, or ever will.
Brown + Hudson designs travel experiences for travelers who yearn for the one-of-a-kind experience that rises above the ordinary.
1. Have you in your personal travel experience, ever had an itinerary go wrong or appear to be not what you expected? And if so how did you deal with it?
One of our key points of difference is that we always manage every journey from the beginning until the end – either through our own guides leading the trip directly, or through our staff at the office managing from afar. It is perfectly normal for our clients to change their minds or arrangements at a moment’s notice. This is neither a challenge, or an obstacle, as it provides an opportunity to shine, surprise and delight. We are bespoke and hands-on in the planning and delivery of each trip.
For example, over breakfast on a recent cycling trip in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand, a client quietly mentioned to his friend over breakfast that he would rather play golf than cycle that day. Our guide overheard this and discovered the nearest golf course was a short 45-minute flight away, and returned to the breakfast table having reserved a tee-time, equipment and caddie. Not to mention, he found a helicopter to take the client there in time.
2. What about a travel experience makes it memorable or special? Certainly the specifics vary from person to person, but what is the intangible that makes it memorable?
Many companies in the travel industry call an itinerary ‘bespoke’ when they string together some destinations, properties and activities based on a client’s wishes…when essentially it is the same packaged itinerary they have sold for years. Our approach goes above and beyond this, which is the definition of truly bespoke travel. A lot of it is in the intangibles, the insights we leverage to apply incredibly personal touches. This can only come from first knowing our clients very well, secondly knowing each destination(s) in detail and thirdly, of course, being creative, diligent and detail-obsessed in planning and delivering the journey.
For instance, in crafting a recent honeymoon to South Africa we found out that the groom was preparing for a marathon to take place shortly after the trip. We built training possibilities into the journey and had each property draw up running routes corresponding to his assumed distance needs. Finally, we connected with a sports science academic in Cape Town who had written the bible of marathon and ultra-marathon running and asked him to craft a mini-running guide for training in the wilderness. We also arranged a meeting between the two later in the journey in Cape Town so our client could get the latest running know-how directly from the source.
Often our clients don’t know we are adding these personal touches to the journey, as each element of our trips seem to fit in naturally.
When our client’s needs or the group size dictates that the trip should be lead by a Brown + Hudson guide then the opportunities for intangibles and special experiences are even more plentiful. Guides can apply touches we have planned directly, or come up with their own spontaneously; as they learn more about the clients they are travelling with.
3. There must be some locations that are often requested. How do you resist the temptation to fall into a cookie-cutter approach when you’re designing a trip over and over for the same location?
The destination is only the canvas on which we paint. Our clients and their wishes, dreams and preferences define the colors and the image. Sure, some locations are more popular than others, but because they are popular, our knowledge and our relationships here go even further than in other destinations. Bringing a lot business to these places actually makes it easier for us to do things differently every time, simply because we are continuously learning about a place.
4. What has been your most outlandish request and how did you meet those expectations?
We wouldn’t consider any requests outlandish. Anything is possible (as long as it’s within our ethical standards).
Recently some clients showed an interest in travel to Afghanistan’s Wakhan corridor, so we went there and researched it. Others have recently expressed an interest to cycle on the ice in Antarctica, and we will make it happen.
5. Is there anywhere considered too dangerous? Do you ever dissuade people from traveling to certain locations?
We take our clients’ safety very seriously. We bear foreign office advisories in mind and then look at the reality of the local situation. If in any doubt we involve political and security risk professionals for another perspective on levels of risk in any destination. We inform our clients accordingly, but the decision is always theirs. Naturally, we will not carry out any journeys where we are not comfortable with regard to our clients’ (and our staff’s) safety.
6. During the interview process with your clients have you ever uncovered things that the traveler was surprised to consider? Most people tend to think in the box are they pleasantly surprised that something you suggested really appeals to them when they never would have thought it would?
We pride ourselves in identifying where our clients’ obvious and not so obvious interests, dreams and wishes lie, and then leveraging these to create personal experiences they wouldn’t have thought of. Because we go way beyond the norm in the travel industry, this tends to happen all the time and the initiative usually comes from us – after all this is why our clients come to us.
On a recent trip in Africa, for a client with an interest in history and politics, we recommended a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Our client agreed but thought we were joking. In fact, he and his newly betrothed wife met the Archbishop last week in Cape Town and had their recent marriage blessed. A great highlight for an already exceptional honeymoon.
7. How much weight do you carry in the decision making? For instance if there is a place you absolutely know your client would love but they may be hesitant, how much do you persuade?
We will always give a client an accurate reflection of why a destination, property or experience could be appropriate for them. But the choice is ultimately theirs; after all we promise them everything they want and nothing that they don’t. Generally clients trust our judgment and recommendations, but if for whatever reason they want to do something differently, we will make it possible.
8. What percent of your clientele are regulars and how many are looking for the trip of a lifetime—something to wipe off their bucket list?
This year we have benefitted from a large number of new clients commissioning Brown + Hudson for the first time. Prior to that I would say that 75% of our business was repeat business, but this year that number is down to about 50%, thanks to new business.
The ‘trip of a lifetime’ scenario applies mainly to our honeymooners, or perhaps a multi-generational family trip, where the grandparents might invite everyone on such a journey – it’s rare to get the whole family together.
9. That being said, who is your typical client, describe them.
Our clients come from different places around the world, backgrounds and professions. They do have in common an attitude that emphasizes the value of time – and particularly personal time.
Whenever they use personal time, they want to know they are making the most of it. They want extraordinary experiences catered to their specific needs, no matter how particular, impossible or unusual that might seem. They like to feel that their experiences are theirs and theirs alone.
10. What drew you to travel in the first place?
The individual motivations and backgrounds of our team in London and our guides around the planet differ greatly. But we are all a rather curious and restless bunch who like to be on the go, who cherish discovery and connecting with people. Some of us are into sports and discover the world on foot or by bike, some are culture hounds with degrees in history or art, and others love nothing more than nature. Travel connects the dots for all of us.
11. Have you ever considered settling in one of the places you’ve visited?
Everyone at Brown + Hudson has spent time living overseas. Our staff in our London office has lived in such diverse places as Vietnam, Morocco, Patagonia, Uganda, Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, Mexico and France. However, we are probably not really the ‘settling’ types.
12. Are there some locations that are requested more often?
Currently the most popular destinations are: Bhutan, India, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, France, Turkey, Italy and Vietnam. We have also seen an increase in interest in China and Argentina.
13. What is your most often heard comment from people after their first experience with a Brown + Hudson travel experience?
Difficult to generalize, but usually it’s a form of “you spoiled us”. We also like it when, on a trip our guides overhear “let’s start planning our next trip while we are still all together…”
14. Everyone affiliated with Brown + Hudson knows several languages, have you ever started out talking to someone in the wrong language? How do you switch back between them?
Yes in Iceland. Philippe tried to get a waiter’s attention in a Rejikavic restaurant in Vietnamese saying “Em Oi!”(having just returned from Hanoi). It got the waiter’s attention but not understanding. Switching back happens rather automatically at that point (together with blushing ever so slightly).
To tell you the truth, most of us have grown up bi or tri-lingual and are used to thinking and speaking in different languages. Even with our own families we find ourselves switching back and forth a lot (which can be irritating to some, so we have reigned it in).
15. Is your dream trip/experience still out there or have you experienced it yet?
While we’ve all had the good fortune of having travelled a great deal, our dream experience will always be out there, waiting in our imagination for the right moment or the perhaps the right client…
Brown + Hudson, 13B Hewer Street, London, W10 6DU
T +44 203 358 0110
F +44 203 0700 600