David Hu, president
What is your most exotic, unusual new offering?
Within Bali, we are offering the tented experiences through Capella Ubud … the first tented-camp experience in Bali catering to the five-star market. It is a new-build that opened in July 2018. The tents are built on stilts in the jungles above the sacred river, surrounded by rice terraces. It really is a holistic, authentic, cultural experience.
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace?
Last year, we launched Southeast Asia because customers were looking for more experiences and Asia seemed like the right fit, with amazing cuisine, authentic experiences and beautiful destinations. We expanded further by adding several more hotels in Bali, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bhutan and Philippines. Coming this year are hotels in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam along with suggested and pre-packaged itineraries.
On the other side of the world, we added Mandarin Oriental, Canouan Island … with world-class beaches, lush rolling terrain with the elegance and luxurious service of Mandarin Oriental.
Within our established Europe product, we continuously add more to the portfolio to truly become a one-stop shop so that clients can complete their full itineraries.
We have expanded our Rail Europe offerings; we added Montenegro, and expanded selections within Switzerland and Greece. We launched Ireland and are continuing to add more cities within our established countries such as Italy, Spain and Turkey.
Are you modifying your offerings to accommodate the desire many consumers have to “live like a local” and to have “authentic” experiences?
We are working on adding key products that will enable us to provide our customers more “authentic” experiences. For example, we are working on flexible itineraries to provide off-the-beaten path packages. With the demand for “live like a local,” we also added locations that have more cultural experiences, such as Merida and interior Mexico.
Our Savour campaigns are designed to assist our clients in “living like locals” and becoming culturally immersed in their surroundings. For example, “Savour Spain” focuses on the gastronomy of Spain, with Spanish tapas daily as an inclusion. “Savour Italy” provides culturally “Italian” inclusions, such as free tours, tastings, cooking classes, authentic Italian welcome amenities, site tickets and city tours. It encourages people to get out of their comfort zone a bit.
We started working with IC Bellagio at the start of 2018. We now offer stand-alone villas in the Lake Como region (as well as our existing products in Tuscany and Lake Como). We see clients wanting to be on their own more, to actually live in an Italian home… prepare their own food, go to the store on their own, have a more independent and immersive experience. Villas cater to this 100 percent.
What is your key strategy these days and why?
Our strategy has always been about providing the best service to our clients. What has changed is our definition of service. Not only do we believe that service is about making sure that the traveler has a good time during the travel journey, but it is more about making sure that the entire travel process from the planning and booking to the traveling parts are covered by better service. And service in our minds has broadened to ensure that we have not only the best and deepest portfolio of products beyond just the hotel portion, but also the informational content/technology that helps travel advisors sell the complete experience.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2018/19?
Our focus for the foreseeable future is continuing to build on the services that we provide to travel advisors as well as their customers. We are ultimately middlemen in the distribution channel and our services need to continue to add value to the travel journey. We believe that continuing to add product, services and technology that round out our one-stop shop proposition will enable us to add to the entire travel process.