HAUTE DUBAI Magazine / Travel /
Haute Dubai talks luxury travel
with Rob Young, Managing Director
of The Exclusive Travel Group
What defines your clients and where do they mainly come from?
Our clients come from different parts of the world including the US, Australia, Europe and Russia with one particular passion for unique and exciting ultra-luxury travel experiences. The Exclusive Travel Group clientele consists of some of the most prominent business leaders, celebrities, and oligarchs and people seeking a level of service and support other companies don’t offer. We cater to a wide variety of customers including private travellers, VIPs, dignitaries and corporate clients. Our team of specialists ensures that every travel itinerary is bespoke and tailored to suit personal preferences and interests.
There’s so much going on in luxury the travel market from bespoke to experiential travel to private escapes, what trends you are seeing today?
From life enriching experiences to behind the scenes access that money alone can’t buy, the nature of luxury travel is changing as conspicuous consumption gives way to more discreet travel.
Seven years ago it was seen as a sign of success to brag about the number of cars you owned, the number of seats on your private jet or the length of your private yacht. Now discretion is the name of the game. Private aviation has continued to grow steadily since 2007, but it is not spoken about anymore. People are more private.
We also see a lot of customers favouring once-in-a-lifetime, enriching experiences over the traditional five-star resort with infinity swimming pool. They plan their trips with a focus on authenticity and individualised, experiential travel, wanting to immerse themselves in the local culture.
The demand for bespoke itineraries is now higher than ever with personalised and unique experiences becoming increasingly popular. When it comes to accommodation, our clients often choose to stay in smaller boutique hotels or private architecturally-designed residences and New Zealand is really one of the best destinations in the world to find these properties.
An increasing demand for a high level of service and support – In today’s market, many aspects of travel have become commoditised; they’ve been copied and they’ve been discounted; experiences once deemed as exclusive are available ‘off the shelf’; luxury is now a somewhat nebulous word without true meaning. Service however, should never be discounted; service is the one point of difference that adds real, intangible value to an experience. Service is the one core aspect of our business on which we pride ourselves. It’s the one point of difference that we will not compromise.
I also think it’s important to mention the growing trend of multi-generational travel. Celebrating milestone occasions like anniversaries, reunions or grandparents’ birthdays with the whole family is made all the more special with a customised holiday that strengthens bonds and forms unforgettable memories.
Has there been a change in the way people travel between now and when you started The Exclusive Travel Group 13 years ago?
The biggest change has been this move towards a more discreet style of travel as people seek more authentic, culturally-enriching experiences. Travelling with a conscience is also important to today’s luxury traveller, with many making significant contributions to support the local communities they visit.
In line with seeking enriching experiences, luxury travellers want exclusive experiences that money alone can’t buy. Obtaining privileged, behind-the-scenes access to activities of personal interest—from a private cooking lesson with a top chef to afternoon tea with a celebrated opera singer—make the travel experience all the more special and unique.
The search for the rarest of travel experiences is also taking luxury travellers to some of the most remote, off the beaten track locations on the planet. Of course, they venture to these uncharted territories in style and comfort. Remote eco-lodges in Australia and New Zealand are increasingly popular among upscale global travellers. Think luxury tented lodges atop a glacier complete with private helicopter access, personal chef and hot tubs.
In the 13 years since we’ve been operating we have seen the introduction of a new class of ultra-luxury travel. Luxury travellers today are no longer drawn by ostentatious services; they have moved towards a quieter, understated luxury, and plan their trips with a focus on authenticity and individualised, experiential travel.
Luxury destination management seems to be a bit underrepresented in the Gulf region, why do you think that is?
Middle East travellers often like to stay in established five-star hotel chains and the challenge for us is to educate the market about the luxury lodges and boutique hotels in New Zealand, which introduce a new style of luxury hospitality.
This is also quite a young market when it comes to outbound luxury tourism. Many travel companies offer luxury holiday packages based on the number of stars a hotel has, but very few go beyond and create a bespoke travel itinerary that is tailored to their customers’ needs.
Take us through some of the things The Exclusive Travel Group will do for its customers?
From simple to sophisticated, understated to indulgent, or relaxing to thrill-seeking, The Exclusive Travel Group’s itineraries are as individual as the travellers who book them. Every enquiry starts with a blank piece of paper. Our team really listens to clients to create a genuinely personal trip.
While no two Exclusive Travel Group journeys are ever the same, we do categorise our itineraries by experiences, offering everything from romance to adventure and sport, family, culinary travel, culture, nature and indulgence. We provide access to the best of everything including: world class lodges, 5 Star international hotels, private islands and retreats, private jets and helicopters, luxury yachts, motor craft and personal chefs.
We have a reputation built on what has become an almost unspoken promise – to provide our guests and partners with the best possible service and back-up at all times. Through our trusted network we can also offer specialist services such as luxury transportation, personal security, interpreters, property investment, 24-hour concierge, exclusive shopping and immigration support. There really is no limit to what The Exclusive Travel Group can do for our clients.
Could you name the top 3 exclusive experiences in New Zealand?
For complete privacy you can’t go past Minaret Station, New Zealand’s first ever luxury tented lodge. Located in a sheltered glacial valley at an elevation of 3,000 feet above the shores of Lake Wanaka, the Estuary Burn valley is classic Lord of the Rings territory. Accessible only by helicopter, guests stay in a luxurious insulated tented suite and enjoy meals by the open fire from the gourmet Mountain Kitchen. From late March to early August guests can enjoy a wide range of outdoor pursuits including heli touring, fly fishing, heli mountain biking, sheep mustering, jet boating and other water sports.
Minaret Station - Tented suite
For an ultimate countryside escape, we would highly recommend the Wharekauhau Country Estate that recently hosted their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son Prince George on their official visit. As one of New Zealand’s most celebrated and iconic retreats, this exclusive luxury lodge offers the grandeur and gracious lifestyle of the Edwardian times with an awe-inspiring view over Palliser Bay. You can enjoy the beauty of New Zealand’s stunning countryside by taking a tour of the lodge’s historic coastline or sampling the finest selection of artisan foods and boutique wines for which the Wairarapa region is famous.
Our top third recommendation for New Zealand would be a heli-skiing trip to the South Island. From mid-July to mid-September Queenstown is New Zealand’s favourite winter playground with four ski fields all within easy reach. You can experience the ultimate alpine lakeside retreat by staying in the Matakauri Lodge with stunning views of the Remarkables, Cecil and Walter peak mountain ranges from every angle. Experience the thrill of going down the mountain in the most pristine part of the Southern Alps. Our platinum heli-skiing packages include options of either unlimited group heli-skiing or exclusive private charter, full meet-and-greet service, airport transfers, dedicated guides and luxury accommodation to ensure you have the best experience New Zealand has to offer during the winter months.
If you are about to purchase a luxury vacation, why you would choose each of the destinations offered by The Exclusive Travel Group?
The Exclusive Travel Group is focused exclusively on the aspirational destinations of New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific. The unparalleled beauty of these places offers a truly uplifting experience with memories that will last a lifetime.
With a strong focus on nature, wide open spaces and its unique culture reflecting its European, Pacific Island and indigenous Maori influences, New Zealand is emerging as one of the top destinations for experiential luxury travel.
Laucala Island is another hidden gem represented by The Exclusive Travel Group. At just 12km long, it lies in a remote corner of the South Pacific archipelago of Fiji and is rated among the top three private islands in the world. Fringed by cerulean waters and dazzling white beaches, this stunning island is the ultra-exclusive, eco-chic destination of the decade. This 90% self-sufficient island takes luxury to a whole new level.
With an array of fantastic accommodation choices, hundreds of miles of golden beaches, extraordinary rock formations, tropical rain forests, desert plains, coral reefs, mountains, lakes and vibrant city centres, Australia offers something for everyone.