'Tourists hope to connect with local life'
Luxury travel company founder says having local experts is a must
Luxury travel planners have been around for a while, but those who specialise in Africa and Latin America are lesser known here. That is a gap Jacada Travel hopes to fill.
Its British founder, Mr Alex Malcolm, 36, travelled to Brazil after graduating from university. He stayed on to explore South America for four years.
While there, he picked up Portuguese and Spanish and fell so much in love with the region that he hoped to retire in Argentina.
His Latin American experience reinforced his belief in in-depth travel - he believes that local experts are a must if one wishes to delve into the local culture.
This belief has paid off since he founded Jacada Travel eight years ago.
"No guest will write to us about how great the hotel bathroom design is. Guests write to us to praise our local guides," he said.
The company, which has offices in Europe, South Africa and Hong Kong, specialises in planning custom luxury itineraries for Africa and Latin America.
Mr Malcolm has his sights set on South-east Asia - he is considering setting up Jacada Travel's second Asia office in Singapore.
He believes his network of contacts is what makes his trips exceptional - experiences that are tailored to the travellers' taste and pace.
He said Jacada Travel has also helped stage various high-end events at luxury hotels, restaurants, wineries and farms.
"When tourists go to a foreign place, they hope to have some connection with local life. The majority of Jacada Travel's carefully selected private guides are well-known individuals in local society.
"They play the role of host and arrange for private itineraries, as well as handle any issues that may crop up for our guests," he said.
In Argentina, for example, Jacada Travel partners with a personality from a wine-making family to host the company's guests.
"This gentleman's family is well known locally," he said.
"Our guests will feel as if they are travelling with local nobles when walking with him on the street. They will be able to glean first-hand information about the area from this host and also be able to access a private itinerary that doesn't come by often."
According to Mr Malcolm, needs in the high-end travel market are constantly evolving.
A decade ago, luxury travel was about beach holidays to private islands.
However, premium travellers today also attach great importance to the richness of their travel experiences. They even hope to be able to make a difference to the communities at their travel destinations.
As such, Jacada Travel's guides also work on community projects with their guests.
Mr Malcolm said: "When you appreciate the beautiful local scenery and culture, you naturally wish to give back.
"When introducing a particular tourist site, our guides in Africa will also let our guests know that the tourism industry has benefited 28,000 local children who are now able to go to school every day and have the chance to change their lives for the better."
Jacada Travel also organises luxury trips to India.
Its latest journey provided its guests with a private tour of the City Palace of Jaipur in Rajasthan, which is not normally open to the public.
There, the guests could admire the magnificent interiors and enjoy a VIP meal, or take in a traditional performance.
For Mr Malcolm, the greatest gain from travelling is to be able to appreciate and fall in love with the similarities and differences between people.
"I like to encounter new things. Even if you have arrived at a quiet corner of the world, you will discover after chatting with the locals that although your living environments and culture differ dramatically, everyone has more or less the same worries and concerns," he said.
The article is adapted from ZBBZ, a bilingual luxury lifestyle magazine published by Lianhe Zaobao