Philippe Brown, founder of bespoke travel company Brown + Hudson, offers his perspective on what truly defines luxury travel, the trends he has witnessed in 2014 and his predictions for the high-end travel market as we look towards 2015.
What about the luxury travel market are you most passionate about?
Redefining what people expect from travel partners is ultimately our main approach. Although slightly unorthodox, we believe luxury isn’t restricted to first-class travel or five star accommodation. Instead it is about sharing unique experiences through personal touches and journalistic research. These then develop into the most richest travel stories that although can be shared time and time again, can never be repeated.
What travel trends have you witnessed in 2014?
Despite the digital revolution, our clients are often seeking to rebel and disconnect from modern technology that can disrupt relaxation and invade enjoyable experiences. Discerning travelers are seeking to return to the traditional form of personal discovery, without the infiltration of mobile phones and laptops. Quality time as a couple, family, or even like-minded friends is becoming increasingly more important. Although longer adventures are still highly sought after, short tips that create a long-lasting impact are now a fundamental offering in luxury travel, often to ‘edgy’ destinations to allow people to really focus on enjoying their experience and leave their hectic, urbanised lives at home.
Equally, spending time with influential individuals has also become very popular in the luxury travel market. From cooking alongside Murat Bozok, Turkey’s most highly regarded chef, or sipping delicately infused tea in the Himalayas with the King of Ladakh.
What is the history of Brown + Hudson and why did you start the company?
Working for a Parisian ad agency as a young man was enjoyable but I was always day dreaming about how I could make a lasting impact on people’s lives instead. Following a solo expedition to Patagonia, searching for the peaks of the Argentinean Andes, meeting insightful people and trekking through the cordillera really sparked my passion for travel. The writings of William Henry Hudson, amongst others, influenced me to always look forward – the true way to live a life of travel.
The opportunity arose in 2009 to found Brown + Hudson, giving me the ability to share what I feel ‘travel’ should be. Absorbing people from start to finish, to create unique and beautiful memories that will empower them forever.”
What is your top travel tip?
With such extraordinary experiences created, it is a travesty to view them from behind a screen. Be it a camera or a smartphone, it is important to take a step back from technology and experience it first-hand. I would urge travelers to make sketches of the astounding sights that greet them instead, producing something very special to share with their loved ones back home.
Tell me a little known secret about Brown + Hudson that customers wouldn’t know?
No culture can really be truly experienced in its true form without having a language to unlock it. I am blessed to speak not only English and French, but Vietnamese, Arabic, and many others too. This is crucial for obtaining local knowledge, understanding, making friends and avoiding any confusing situations!
What makes Brown + Hudson so special and how does it differ from other luxury travel companies?
Whatever ideas a client has when they come to us, whether it’s a fully-formed plan or a selection of thoughts, we ensure that the trip we create has all the elements included that they want to experience, with nothing they don’t. We will ensure that the experience has never been created before to guarantee that all travel stories formed as a result of the trip will be completely unique to them. Time is an extremely valuable commodity to our clients, so every component of our journalistic planning and research for the trip is aimed at making every second of the journey irreplaceable.
Above all, we love a challenge. We enjoy developing itineraries that cause gasps of disbelief. If it hasn’t been done, we want to do it; if it ‘can’t be done’, we will prove them wrong.
What are your predictions for the luxury travel market in 2015?
Interestingly, we’ve noticed the lesser known North American destination, Montana is coming to the fore, with a whole lot to offer. For reviving escapes – we are starting to reveal the Big Sky Country for clients tight on time but increasingly in need of a rejuvenating break. Since 2011, Burma (Myanmar) has become an increasingly sought after destination for those looking to journey through new lands. Shrouded in secrecy for decades, Myanmar’s mainland is complemented by a string of 800 unmapped and remote islands known as the Mergui Archipelago. Inhabited by free-diving sea gypsies, these crystal clear waters and bright white beaches lend themselves to a luxury cruise aboard a wooden sailing boat.
Thirdly, beautiful Chile is set to be another sought after destination, providing a dream blend of stunning blue-hued glaciers, the world’s driest desert and the mountainous peaks of Patagonia. This slender South American country is potentially one of the world’s most diverse destinations. With so much on offer we are always looking to craft the less obvious original experiences for our clients. From wondering through the colourful streets of Valparaiso in search of the home of Nobel prize-winning poet and diplomat, Pablo Neruda; navigating your senses and taste-buds through Chile’s picture-perfect vineyards and wine lists; or an early morning hike to summit a snow-capped volcano with breath-taking scenery below – everything is possible.