Voice of Luxury: Abercrombie & Kent’s Martin Froggatt
A. I look after all the destination management companies, which are our worldwide offices. These are the guys and girls who deliver the experiences on an hour-by-hour, day-to-day basis. Connected to that, we have our lodges and our boats – these are our assets. And that’s where the ‘A&K cocoon’ really comes into play, because you could have a travel agent who books a safari trip to Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia and at no point do those customers leave the cocoon. There are very few travel companies out there that control the journey from beginning to end. When somebody stays within that A&K cocoon, it enables us to deliver exactly what that customer is expecting and probably, in most cases, exceed it.
Q. You’re set to open a DMC and a circuit of lodges in Saudi Arabia. Why was this a destination you wanted to have a presence in?
A. A&K has always been at the forefront of going to new destinations. Saudi Arabia is a country that is rich in culture and history. We’re going to be very focused on AlUla initially, which will be the heart of the A&K operation. Having been there, what I found incredible was how friendly the people were. People want to tell their story and they want to talk about where they live. For me, travel is about education, understanding and changing perceptions. As a company it’s about helping our customers see [and enjoy] amazing things and experiences.
Q. Which other DMC locations have you got your eye on?
A. We’ve got 12 countries that we’re focused on opening in. We just opened a DMC in Canada and will open one in Namibia in the new year.
Q. What other expansion is in the pipeline?
A. One of the things we’ve learnt from the pandemic is that people are going to travel in different ways. They’ll want to stay in smaller properties and they won’t want to cross as many borders. That gives us a great platform to look at how we grow our lodges and camps. The places we’d like to open lodges in are Mexico, the US, Canada, Morocco, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Patagonia, Brazil and more of south and east Africa. We’re open to the right opportunity in the right place, which has to be unique and give our customers some sort of wow moment, whether that’s the experience, the view or the location. We’re not building seven‑star properties, we’re building beautiful, comfortable lodges with fabulous food, underpinned and operated by fantastic staff.
Q. Where are you currently seeing demand?
A. Demand for Africa next year has increased dramatically. Customers are spaced out and can take a private safari vehicle where guides are vaccinated and wearing masks. We’ll also probably operate more luxury expedition cruises in 2023 than ever before – one of the most exciting being a trip to the Russian Arctic. The luxury expedition cruising market disappeared for two years, but I think it will come back quicker and faster [than other sectors].
Q. What other trends are you seeing emerge among affluent travellers?
A. Fewer stops. The customer that was doing three or four countries is now doing two or three. We’re seeing people spend a little bit more, which is interesting. We’ve had a number of customers book more than one trip at the same time. I think we will see bucket-list items like Machu Picchu, climbing Kilimanjaro and visiting Galápagos move a lot quicker over the next 12 months because people think ‘when will I get the chance again?’ If you want people to want something more, take it away from them.
Q. What does the word ‘luxury’ mean to you?
A. I hate the word luxury because for the people that book luxury travel, it isn’t luxurious. So in terms of me being a luxury tour operator, it’s about exceeding guests’ expectations. It’s about giving them something they’re not expecting and weaving a story into everything. When a customer goes on a luxury trip, they have very high expectations and you really have to exceed those rather than meet them