Philippe Kjellgren’s knowledge has been dubbed as “to luxury hotels, what the Michelin Guide is to restaurants”. To honour this and continue to only offer his members the very best hotel recommendations worldwide, the author of seven books has embarked on an 800-day trip around the world, to personally vet each and every hotel which appears on PK’s List – his popular travel members app.
Luxurious Magazine’s Senior Reporter, Sabi Phagura, caught up with Philippe during the last 100 days of his trip.
LM: We are very impressed with your dedication to scout out the top hotels of the world. What sparked this interest?
PK: When I decided to do a hotel app, I thought “what can I do that is different?”. So I came to the conclusion that for one, nobody has ever visited all the hotels in an app to ensure they are hotels you like to recommend. The only way to prove that I had been there was to go back and take a picture, and to show on social media and on the app that I’ve been. So off we went, and we decided to visit each and every hotel on the app and do research for new hotels along the way.
Secondly, with the next generation in mind, I wanted to create the perfect tool that allows subscribers to the app to interact directly with each hotel, so it’s the only hotel app in the world where you can easily, and with a click of a button, connect directly by email, phone and URL, and even book the hotels directly. All other apps block this information as their revenue model is to earn commission on bookings which they would lose if they shared hotel contact information. Therefore PK’s List really is the perfect tool for anyone wanting to do their own research.
LM: What kind of things do you look out for to ensure that the hotel is suitable?
PK: Attention to detail is always number one; everything from the small things to interior design, where you can see there has been some thought put into it. Service is key; it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be friendly and genuine – the element of surprise, when hotels create those special moments for a guest that is unexpected. The overall quality of a property is also important, when you can see no corners have been cut with materials that last.
It’s also through special activities. We just rode on horseback at VIK Estancia in Uruguay. It was sold as a Full Moon Ride, but what we didn’t know was that we started at sunset, rode for one and a half hours to a spot where a campfire was set up with a chef and a table with wines and drones, as well as chairs facing the river towards the area they had calculated where the moon would rise. We then sat and admired a spectacular moonrise, enjoyed incredible BBQ meat and chorizo, sampled great wines and eventually rode back in the moonlight. It was a very unexpected experience that surprised and delighted us.
I’ve been all over the world horseback riding, but this was the most unique horseback experience I’ve had so far. It’s very easy for other hotels to replicate, but they don’t. Why? That’s what makes a hotel special, these great creative ideas.
LM: How important is service when it comes to staying at hotels?
PK: Very. I think service is key for a good experience. We recently stayed in a resort that is, on the surface one of the best, but once we arrived, everything from a guest experience point of view had failed. We couldn’t wait to get out of there, a shame as the resort was beautiful, but the management team didn’t know how to manage the service.
LM: You speak about being able to negotiate “money can’t buy services” with the managers. What do you mean by this?
PK: I believe everything is about connections. If you know the manager, in let’s say a restaurant where you need to book six months in advance, you can get a table the same or next day. The same thing goes with hotels – if you know the right people, you can arrange bespoke offerings that otherwise might not be possible, such as special access.
It’s all about the experience, and if you can surprise and delight a client, their experience will be so much better. This is not available through the app, as it can’t be automated, but is for members of our Travel Club where we manage the entire booking process.
LM: What’s been your best and worst hotel experience so far?
PK: The best has been Laucala in Fiji, as it was by far the best hotel we have been to so far. A private island in Fiji, with 25 villas and over 400 staff, five restaurants, and all the activities you could think of including a submarine for guests to enjoy. It’s owned by the Red Bull founder and he has spared no expense to create an absolute paradise and with great style.
The worst was in Costa Rica when we ended up with nowhere to stay as we thought we could wing it. Little did we know that everything was full in the entire city so the only place we found was a small hotel on top of a shabby restaurant. We had three beds in the room with not a single piece of matching linen. The TV was bolted down to the table and attached to the wall with a massive chain. We asked the hotel if they had a safe for our valuables, and they said, don’t worry it’s very safe here, and we thought “wow it must be super safe considering how they secure a simple TV!”. Anyway, in the end, we slept well and it was an amazing experience to add to our list of more memorable stays!
LM: You’ve already amassed 700 days as part of your 800-day trip around the world. What has been this like, and surely you must be tired?
PK: Funnily enough no. The trip is exhilarating and fun, and there’s a new experience every day. I guess because we conditioned ourselves to move every two to three days, it’s become the norm. It’s been amazing to see different hotels, cultures and places, and therefore you never get bored.
LM: What have you missed the most while embarking on this journey?
PK: To cook. I love to cook, and a simple home-cooked meal is what I miss the most, as we eat out three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
LM: How can members join PK’s List and follow you on your journey?
PK: You can download the app from the App Store and pay an annual, or soon monthly fee, similar to Spotify. You can also follow my Instagram channel @pkslist to keep up with my travels and see all the hotels first-hand that I am visiting.
PK’s List – Where and How?
For more information on PK’s List, visit www.pks-list.com.