Short Breaks Travel

Luxury travel agent’s top spots for 2017

By: Katie Roberts

Could Vicky Hogg have one of the best occupations in the world? Alongside “mystery hotel tester”, we think her job as a luxury travel specialist rates very highly. The Londoner moved to Asia in September 2016 to launch the second international office of Scott Dunn, in Singapore. She shared the hottest travel experiences this year, her personal favourites, as well as what she hopes to bring to travellers in Hong Kong and beyond.

The Raja Ampat archipelago is high on the recommended list of luxury travel expert Vicki Hogg
The Raja Ampat archipelago is high on the recommended list of luxury travel expert Vicky Hogg

It seems like the dream job; what do you enjoy most about it? One of the best parts of my role is getting to know our guests – usually over the phone – and building a great relationship with them. Later, when they’re on their holiday, I love to receive the pictures of their incredible experiences! It goes without saying that the travel is amazing – and even after working here for seven years – there is so much I haven’t seen yet. We get to really experience a destination in-depth, which is something I don’t take for granted. I honestly think travel is so important and whether travelling as a family, couple or groups of friends, it is an opportunity to widen your horizons together.

So, what’s hot in 2017? Cruising the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat or the Komodo Islands on board Lamima; learning to surf at Nihiwatu’s new surf school on Sumba island, Indonesia; the Scott Dunn Explorers Club at Per Aquum Niyama in the Maldives; cross-country skiing in Niseko, Japan, and exploring the legendary Dalmatian Islands in Croatia on board a luxury crewed yacht.

What are your personal favourites? My favourite beach is one of the deserted beaches in Raja Ampat, a stunning archipelago off the West Papua coast. It’s so remote that on the seven-day cruise I didn’t see another boat! My favourite cuisine is Japanese. Sushi is my absolute favourite, and I’m looking forward to my first visit to Japan to sample it with the locals. For the best sunset, it’s difficult to to choose, but the view over the vineyards from La Residence, in Franschhoek, South Africa is hard to beat. While there are amazing temples worldwide, the uniqueness and sheer scale of the temples in Bagan in Myanmar is impressive – best seen from a hot air balloon! My most memorable close encounter with a wild animal was on a rainforest trek in Borneo’s isolated Danum Valley. The wild orangutan’s were just metres away; it was so much better than any sanctuary. My favourite hotel for a girls’ weekend is the Nam Hai, now a Four Seasons, in Hoi An, Vietnam. It ticks all the boxes: beach, restaurants, culture and shopping!

What would you say is the value you add for your clients? Passion, experience and my in-depth travel knowledge. Sometimes people have preconceived ideas of places that might not be accurate, so they need to speak to someone who knows a destination inside and out, and can manage their expectations and offer alternatives and suggestions. It’s true that not everything is always amazing crystal clear waters and golden sands – but it doesn’t mean they are not places that you would avoid. Rather, it’s about matching a destination with what’s right for each guest.

What was the impetus for the company to open an office in Asia? It’s our ambition to become the authority in tailor-made, luxury travel globally. We actually opened two international offices in 2016: one in California, and the other in Singapore. This means we’re available for guests 24 hours a day, and we can do that with staff in three offices spread across three different time zones. So it’s not just about gaining new business, but giving even better service to our existing guests.

How does one go about organising a Scott Dunn holiday? It all starts with an initial enquiry, either by phone or email. Everything we do is tailor made, so it’s important for us to have an initial conversation to understand exactly what type of holiday the guest is looking for, as well as getting to know their passions and hobbies so we can really customise a holiday to suit them perfectly. Our first-hand experience is invaluable in this process because we’ve personally been to all the properties and destinations within our portfolio, so can give an honest opinion about a certain place, or hotel plus suggestions for private guiding and other unique experiences. Once the itinerary is perfected, we take a deposit and make the guest bookings. Scott Dunn is the one point of contact from the initial enquiry stage, to the moment the guest returns from their holiday.

Tell us about Scott Dunn’s approach to responsible tourism? Through the Scott Dunn Charitable Fund we contribute around HKD$950,000 a year to various community-based projects such as the Tusk Trust in Africa, Marys Meals in Malawi, Small Steps Project and several others. These projects are close to our hearts; and our long-term aim is to bring lasting improvements in the lives of people by promoting conservation, education and community development. We also handpick our recommended properties and try to focus on hotels that put sustainability at the forefront of their operation. For example, at Song Saa in Camobodia, guests can learn about sustainability as part of their guest experience. We also have an option for guests to donate money to offset the carbon emissions of their holiday.

Non-Brits may not know of Scott Dunn; what is the brand’s story? The British company is a pioneer of luxury travel in the UK and was established around 30 years ago by travel veteran Andrew Dunn. The initial focus was on ski chalets and alpine holidays, which expanded into Mediterranean villas and now we offer unique travel experiences around the globe.

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This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.

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