Last Word: Sujata Raman, Regional managing director Abercrombie & Kent Australia/Asia Pacific
How she got her start with one of the world's leading luxury travel experts and whats coming up in 2018
When did you start out in the travel industry?
In the late 1980s. I was working in Cairo and a friend told me of a company that had a vision of building the most luxurious Nile cruiser Egypt had seen. It sounded interesting so I rang them on the off chance they might need English-speaking staff for the planned increase in guests. That’s how I got my foot in the door at A&K.
What is it you love about working in travel?
I am very fortunate to work in such a wonderful industry – planning holidays for travellers, exploring new destinations, working out creative experiences. It takes me to amazing places and gives me diverse encounters.
What is your favourite city to visit and why?
I’m not sure I have a favourite (other than Melbourne of course!) but I’ve often thought I could live in Santiago – it’s a beautiful city with views of snow-capped peaks, a great food scene and an easy going cosmopolitan population.
You live in Melbourne – which three places do you love showing off to visitors?
Hosier Lane – a look at the street art followed by lunch, the Yarra Valley which I claim is the prettiest wine growing region in Australia and the Botanical Gardens.
What makes an Abercrombie & Kent trip special?
Any good travel company needs experts with a great attention to detail. We place great value in the careful curation of a journey to perfectly suit the traveller. Fortunately, we have an extensive network of A&K offices around the world, each staffed with on ground experts, all of which works to ensuring a seamless experience for our guests.
Who is the A&K traveller and what are they seeking?
Our clients are generally well travelled individuals with a thirst for knowledge. They are adventurous and value personalised and enriching experiences in new, and often exotic, destinations.
The A&K traveller is also socially aware and makes travel choices that positively impact the environment, supporting local communities in the destinations they visit and minimising the ecological footprint.
The A&K traveller is not a passive voyeur, but wants to be actively involved in the destination. Some of the experiences we include for our guests include one-on-one interaction with the Sami reindeer herders of northern Norway, a meeting with golden eagle hunters in Mongolia, time spent with village women at a knitting workshop in Southern India, the opportunity to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and many more.
How does A&K make this possible?
By working with our local offices and partners to create unique experiences and creatively design journeys which incorporate authentic interactions and genuine engagement with local communities, or a new way of seeing a place.
In some places, where accommodation might be lacking, we bring in our own infrastructure and set up a luxury camp specifically for our guests, or bring in our own food if the standards we expect cannot be met.
Tell us more about the private helicopter and jet charters and why do you think they are so appealing?
Travel by private jet removes all the stress and irritation of airports and airport bureaucracy – long queues in customs and airport security. It means being able to access new places without adding unnecessary time to get there and remote destinations that larger airlines don’t service on a timetable dictated by the itinerary – rather than an airline schedule – and a first class experience getting there.
What are some highlight itineraries coming up in 2018?
– Egypt is firmly back on our radar and I’ll be personally escorting a small group journey there next September taking in Cairo and its highlights plus a luxury Nile cruise on our own Sun Boat.
– A Hosted Small Group Journey to Ghana, Togo and Benin, countries where voodoo and ancestor worship is still widely practiced. Guests will attend trance dances with a village witch doctor, experience local art and textiles, join in ritual celebrations like the Akwasidae Festival and be part of sacred Ashanti funeral traditions.
– A private tour of Sri Lanka by air which includes a walking tour of Colombo, a hot air balloon ride over the rock fortress of Sigiriya, a pooja ceremony at Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth before a leisurely stay in the tea country, concluding in atmospheric Galle.
– A luxury safari in Kenya journey which combines two of the country’s most famous game viewing spots, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Masai Mara, with Chyulu Hills National Park, a hidden gem in the south. In June, our flagship East African camp, Sanctuary Olonana in the Masai Mara, relaunches, after extensive refurbishment, as an exceptional luxury lodge with an impressive showcase of modern design blended with distinct traditional African finishes. Stay tuned.
– A hosted small group journey celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Dead with colourful costume pageants, home altar decoration, street parties and a candlelit vigil at a local cemetery.