Last week I caught up with Philippe Brown, the founder of bespoke travel company Brown + Hudson, to discuss 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?
“Through our slightly unorthodox approach, ultimately we are looking to redefine what people expect from their travel partner. We believe luxury lies within the time spent, the moments experienced, and not restricted to first-class travel or five star accommodation. Turning a dream into reality, with an abundance of personal touches along the way, is what really creates invaluable and inimitable travelling experiences.”
Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu
What travel trends have you witnessed in 2014?
“The digital revolution has taken hold of the travel market, but not in the way we might expect, with many people now looking to rebel and ‘unplug’ when they go away. Discerning travellers are harking back to older values of the Grand Tour and personal discovery to ensure memorable experiences, but at the same time seeking togetherness as a couple, family or increasingly a group of like-minded friends.
“While adventures lasting several months still hold sway, short duration and high impact trips often to ‘edgy’ destinations, where people can remove themselves from their lives for just a few days are now a core offering in luxury travel.
“Equally, meeting insightful individuals has also become popular, whether it be cooking with Murat Bozok, Turkey’s most highly regarded chef, or sipping tea with the King of Ladakh in the Himalayas.”
What is the history of Brown + Hudson and why did you start the company?
“As a young man I found myself working in a Parisian ad agency, enjoying my time, but always wondering how I could really make a lasting impact, on myself and on others. Daydreaming at my desk soon evolved into a solo expedition to Patagonia, on which I would search for the peaks of the Argentinean Andes.
“Trekking through the cordillera, standing on the shores of Lago Viedma and meeting wonderful people along the way signaled the start of my love for travelling. Influenced equally by the writing of William Henry Hudson amongst many others, I never looked back – only forward, to a life of travel.
“In 2009, I took the opportunity to found Brown + Hudson and share what I feel ‘travel’ means with others, absorbing them in the process from start to finish and ensuring every moment of the trip stays with them forever.”
The Singular, Patagonia
What is your top travel tip?
“When an experience is so unique, it is a crying shame to live it through the screen of a camera or smartphone. I would urge all travellers to take a step back and make sketches of their destinations instead, producing something really special to share with the grandchildren.”
Tell me a little known secret about Brown + Hudson that customers wouldn’t know?
“Language unlocks culture and I am fortunate enough to speak not only French and English, but Arabic, Vietnamese and many others too – essential for acquiring local knowledge, making friends and avoiding any confusing situations.”
Photo credit: Andre Arment
What makes Brown + Hudson so special and how does it differ from other luxury travel companies?
“Whether a client comes to us with a fully-formed vision or just a pipe dream, our promise is to create a one-of-a-kind trip with all that they want to experience – and nothing they don’t. It will not have been done before and it will never be done again, only living on in stories told.
“Time is the most valuable commodity we have, so every element of our pre-trip research, planning and reconnaissance is aimed at making every second of the journey irreplaceable.
“Most of all, we love a challenge. If it hasn’t been done, we want to do it; if it ‘can’t be done’, we will prove the doubters wrong.”
What are your predictions for the luxury travel market in 2015?
“We’ve noticed Montana coming to the fore as a lesser known North American destination, with a whole lot to offer. As a far cry – and much-needed rejuvenating escape – from urbanised lives, we are starting to uncover the Big Sky Country for clients who are ever tighter on time but increasingly in need of a breath of fresh air.
“Those looking to journey through new lands have, since 2011, had the option to explore Burma. 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, the slender South American country of Chile, stretching from the world’s driest desert in the north to blue-hued glaciers and soaring southern peaks of Patagonia, is quite possibly one of the world’s most diverse destinations. With so much on offer we are always looking to the less obvious to craft utterly original experiences for our clients. Whether it be through the winding colourful streets of Valparaiso in search of the home of Nobel prize-winning poet and diplomat, Pablo Neruda; navigating a course through Chile’s picture-perfect vineyards and wine lists; or an early morning hike to summit a snow-capped volcano with stunning scenery below.”
Vineyards and mountains in Chile
BROWN + HUDSON – London
Brown + Hudson is a London-based team of passionate travellers well versed in creating exquisitely crafted, truly bespoke travel experiences across the globe. Each one-of-a-kind journey is tailored to suit individual tastes, interests and personal style, enabling affluent clients to explore the world on their own terms with expert input, ultimately yielding richer travel stories.
As a cross between a therapist and investigative journalist each experience is drafted through in-depth reconnaissance and unparalleled global connections with itineraries hand crafted. With a focus on culture, wildlife, culinary, wellbeing and more, often involving access to inspiring individuals, travel with Brown + Hudson is insightful and impossible to duplicate.