10 questions with… Lucy Jackson

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LATTE talks trending travel destinations, quirky clients and dream honeymoons with Lucy Jackson, co-founder and director at Lightfoot Travel (Hong Kong).

1. Tell us about your role at Lightfoot Travel. How did you get into the travel industry?

My role incorporates a wide spectrum of different functions – much like that of any COO. I oversee the day-to-day of the Lightfoot Travel group, with particular emphasis on marketing and HR. I’ve always been interested in the power of a brand, particularly through human resources. In part, this stems from my first job of working in a large media company based out of London, where I learnt a lot about utilising innovative platforms for engagement.

After this I moved into the tailormade travel industry, working at ground zero with clients to create the best itineraries possible for them. Essentially this is still the basis to all that we do at Lightfoot and it’s our guests who drive our business forward and teach us what we need to do next.

2. What travel trends are defining 2017? What trends do you predict/see on the horizon for 2018?

Travellers are getting braver and embracing experiential travel, and they are willing to jump at new travel opportunities and want to explore the ‘unexplored’. While a beach holiday in the Maldives will always be a popular choice, in 2017 more and more of our clients are coming to us for the likes of riding through Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, trekking in Iran or a voyage in Antarctica. That doesn’t mean they want to forgo modern comforts though.

In 2018 I see the desire for experiential travel shifting up a gear to ‘transformative travel’, where travellers see a holiday as a time for self-reflection or self-development. This could be getting involved in conservation efforts at an African lodge for example. I believe more and more travellers will start to judge their holiday by the impact they make, or even how immersed they become in a particular culture, rather than Instagram likes.

3. Which destinations are most in demand? Which ones are on the rise? 

Demand: Japan is still our top country of choice for travellers in 2017. Indonesia forms some of the family villa bookings and is currently third in the ranks. Namibia is in high demand. Not only do guests have the chance to discover some of the world’s most phenomenal landscapes, such as the Skeleton Coast, but thanks to the Namibian dollar being pegged to the weak South Africa Rand, it’s more financially viable too.

On the rise: In terms of growth, Latin America has grown at a rapid rate over the last three years with an
average growth of 200% YOY. Antarctica is also seeing a significant rise. In 2016, Lightfoot saw a substantial 93% increase in travellers. Highlights include overnight camping in the wilderness, snowshoeing, expedition photography and sea kayaking through the iceberg-filled waters. Since international sanctions were lifted on Iran, it has made it the hottest travel ticket in town. One of the most culturally rich countries in the world, it will appeal to those looking for something completely unique. Mongolia is another destination that is becoming increasingly popular.

4. Which hotel openings (or reopenings) are you most looking forward to for the coming year?

Rwanda is really putting itself on the map with a splattering of new hotels. The newly opened Bisate Lodge, located in Volcanoes National Park, accommodates just 12 guests and comes complete with jawdropping views and a wine cellar. Another exciting opening is Rosewood Luang Prabang, Laos. The luxury tent and villa encampment is just 10 minutes’ drive  from the historic city of Luang Prabang. Guests spend the day meandering along the river and the evening enjoying a treatment in the spa or relaxing on the deck of their luxury tent looking up at the stars.

5. How do you define experiential travel?

Highly personalised holidays to the individual guest, which are unique and inspiring – with an emphasis on the authentic to ensure that they trips of a lifetime.

6. In a world of online DIY, why do clients seek you out? What specialisations mark you out? What do you do better than anyone else?

We have a knowledgeable team of specialists who come with a wealth of experience, an unrivalled understanding of the destinations and excellent guest service. We are at the top of our game and ahead of the trends so we can talk about travel with confidence and authority. We listen to our clients to get to know them, and to understand their style and scene preferences and to pre-book the relevant restaurants or make otherwise informed suggestions so that the trip is that the best it can be. We only recommend destinations and
properties that we have experienced first hand.

We give a peace of mind not offered online, as we have the relationships with the suppliers and ensure the clients get put in the best room available for the rates they are paying.

We personalise each itinerary to the individual (no cookie-cutter packages here) and don’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Each guest is unique and is treated as such. In this sense we give a highly original service not found in local agencies or when booking online.

7. What are the greatest lengths you have gone to for a client? What has been the most extravagant holiday you have designed? What’s the quirkiest?

One of our VVIP clients was in Hong Kong for a weekend and his wife wanted to explore the best shops, and not just the ones in the tourist guides. Two of our staff members spent two days showing her an insider’s view of Hong Kong, going beyond the tourist trail and to some of the most exclusive boutiques in the city. We were on call 24/7 for reservations at the drop of a hat.

We’ve done a range of extravagant holidays whether it’s flying by private jet into Bhutan and setting up a private camp in a remote valley with a specialist guide to look for snow leopards to something more fly and flop with private islands.

The quirkiest would have to be this one client who was on holiday in Fuji in Japan and wanted to go to church in Tokyo, while also trying to watch a day of motor racing and make their dinner reservation at one of the best sushi restaurants in town. We organised a helicopter to whisk them to church and back ensuring they didn’t miss a race or their dinner!

8. You have six months off during which to travel. Where would you go and what would you do?

I’d either go with an exploratory in-depth dive of Indonesia which is one of my favourite destinations – I’m lucky to have ventured to the further eastern islands, but I’d love to have the privilege of time in order to settle in each place for longer. Alternatively, I have a bucket list of destinations that I made when I was in my early 20s of places to explore before I turned 40. Considering that is creeping up fast, I would reference the list which includes Antarctica and the Arctic still, as well as Botswana, Zambia and Malawi which have still eluded me within the African continent. The caveat is that my family would be travelling with me so I guess I’d bear that in mind and perhaps not be as quite as intrepid in accommodation options as I once might have been. Lucky I work in the industry!

9. What are your top tips for organising a client’s honeymoon? What are your top three honeymoon destinations? 

After the stress of wedding planning, that long-awaited honeymoon is of paramount importance and we know that the clients’ next great adventure has been expertly taken care of.

  • Tip 1: Don’t leave the planning until the last minute, you’ll have enough to worry about as
    the wedding approaches.
  • Tip 2: Be open minded to destinations. Just because you haven’t thought of somewhere before, doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect place for you.
  • Tip 3: Mix up the destinations too – some of the best honeymoons we’ve planned have combined opposing elements – beach and city, safari and beach for example.

1. Safari and beach: Our dream honeymoon combination would be to spend some time enjoying the thrill of a safari holiday followed by a blissful stay on the pristine white beaches of Mozambique or Tanzania. Stay in luxurious lodges in the heart of the bush or on the shores of rivers. Expect candlelit dinners in the African bush and spa treatments where you least expect them. We often sandwich the safari with relaxation either side of the game viewing as there is nothing worse than early starts post wedding, when you’re so exhausted that all you want to do is sleep and not be waking at 4am for a game drive!

2. Argentina and Brazil: While Argentina doesn’t do beach, it does have seductive Buenos Aires, incredible food and gaucho estancia experiences. For a luxurious end to your honeymoon, Southern Brazil’s tropical coastline offers the perfect spot to unwind after your exploration and recount the excitement of your wedding and honeymoon.

3. Fiji: Fiji is known for its tropical white sands, turquoise seas, beautiful resorts and above all else, its wonderfully warm and friendly people. Comprising over 300 islands, it’s natural that one of the best ways to experience the country is by hopping between islands. We recommend doing this on board a private yacht, which gives you the freedom sail in and out of secluded bays and snorkel right off the back of the boat.

10. Best coffee experience you’ve ever had?

I like my regular haunt in Hong Kong, at a hole in the wall in Soho called Fineprint serving Aussie-style Red Back coffee. It’s hard to beat and half the price of its main competitors in Hong Kong. For something more offbeat that I recently had and loved for its smooth taste would be the filter coffee from Papua, served at Ulekan restaurant in Berawa, Bali – a new traditional restaurant which opened this year showcasing the best that the Indonesian archipelago has to offer.

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