From The Straits Times    |

Athirah Annissa

The co-founder of the bespoke travel designer shares her thoughts on the immersive travel experiences and meaningful purposefulness that travellers now seek.

How would you describe what you do to someone you’re meeting for the very first time?

I build relationships and create memories.

How has luxury travel evolved over the years? Is it time to redefine what it means? 

Increasingly, travellers are planning ahead and opting for nature-based and wild-life focused holidays. There is a growing craving for travel experiences that offer opportunities to bond with family and friends, and travellers now seek destinations and activities that allow them to unwind and rejuvenate.

Expedition cruising has gained compelling momentum as an adventurous way to explore remote and untouched destinations. Additionally, we’ve noticed a growing interest in space tourism.

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A helicopter ride in Hawai’i. (Photo: Intriq Journey)

Post-pandemic, while good accommodation and fine dining remain important, travellers now have a sense of discovery for personalised activities and unique entertainment. Sustainability and social responsibility have also become integral travel considerations. Clients are now displaying a shift towards being more health-conscious, thereby prioritising wellness experiences.

Today, there’s a thoughtful balance of opulence and authenticity where travellers are actively engaged, entertained, and connected to the destinations they visit. 

What role does responsible travel have vis-a-vis mindful consumption and sustainability?

Travel is a force for good. In the realm of luxury travel, responsible travel, mindful consumption, and sustainability play a pivotal role where responsible practices preserve cultural heritage, protect the environment, and support local economies. Travel transforms us into ambassadors for the places we visit, instilling a desire to preserve and protect these destinations for future generations. Many luxury hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators have recognised this responsibility and have started their own sustainable initiatives, aligning efforts with stakeholders. 

In Africa, several tour operators actively contribute to wildlife conservation, such as rescuing rhinos and planting trees, while also empowering local communities through hospitality academies and water well projects. To reduce the carbon footprint, we advocate walking tours and biking holidays and avoid the use of single-use plastic water bottles during our tours. We refrain from promoting activities that are not aligned with responsible travel, such as riding elephants, walking with lions, or participating in hunting safaris.

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Photo: Athirah Annissa

The concept of ‘transformative travel’ is gaining popularity. What does the phrase mean to you?

Transformative travel, to me, is about stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Whether it is embarking on a solo adventure for the first time or conquering a challenging feat like scaling a summit, each experience is exceptional and contributes to personal growth and a deeper understanding of oneself. 

In this context, luxury travel becomes a complementary by-product, enhancing the transformative process by providing exceptional and enriching experiences that further contribute to one’s overall adventure of self-discovery and contentment.

How has the rise of social media and influencer culture impacted the way luxury travel experiences are marketed and perceived?

On one hand, it has generated greater awareness and interest as more people learn about these opportunities through the influx of information. On the other hand, it has demystified the allure of exploration and discovery by removing the patina of exclusivity through constant exposure on social media platforms. 

Balancing the promotion of luxurious destinations while preserving the heartfelt crux of these experiences remains a crucial consideration in the evolving landscape of travel marketing and perception.

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Savute Safari Lodge. (Photo: Intriq Journey)

How do you envision the future of luxury travel and its potential impact on individuals and society as a whole?

Luxury travel has the potential to elevate not only the sophistication level of individuals but also society. As we indulge in luxury experiences, we develop a greater appreciation for the finer things in life and learn not to take them for granted. This heightened sense of gratitude can translate into a more mindful and fulfilled society, where people cherish the moments of joy and espouse a deeper sense of gratitude for the privileges they encounter.

When you look at the state of the world today, what is the one thing that gives you hope?

Witnessing the resilience displayed by humanity in the face of challenges brought forth by the pandemic. Despite the difficulties we’ve encountered, the world’s ability to bounce back and adapt gives me confidence that we can overcome whatever future challenges may come our way.

This article was originally published in The Peak.