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Interview: The best luxury getaways, according to travel expert Graham Horner

For some fresh travel ideas and perspectives for 2015, we spoke with Graham Horner, Director of Sales and Marketing for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn, and father of three well-travelled children, Leo, Ginny and Rufus.

 

With three kids of his own, Graham Horner definitely knows the ropes of family travel 

Give us a background to the Scott Dunn brand; when and where did it launch? What does it offer?
We’re a luxury tour operator that has been creating tailor-made holidays for over 28 years.

The story began in 1986 when our founder, Andrew Dunn, had the idea of organising better ski chalet holidays. That idea became a reality, and before long, Andrew was leading a team and crafting luxury ski experiences for guests.

Since then, we’ve taken our expertise and focus on service worldwide, and we can now organise luxury holidays to almost anywhere – we’re rarely defeated by an enquiry! All our holidays are tailored to our guests’ requirements and budget.

Our travel consultants won’t sell properties or experiences they haven’t tried themselves, and they spend at least a month a year travelling in their specialist destinations, which I think is a real point of differentiation from other operators. I’m proud to say that in 2014 we were again voted by readers of Conde Nast Traveller in the UK as their favourite specialist tour operator.

What types of trips can Scott Dunn help arrange for our readers?
Pretty much anything required, from exploring Borneo’s caves, rivers and mountains before heading to the beaches of Langkawi. Or taking a journey across Japan, from Tokyo to Hakone National Park’s volcanic valley and hot springs. Maybe you want to head to the Alps for a stay in one of our wonderful catered ski chalets or have some time on the beach at Soneva Kiri in Thailand or NIYAMA in the Maldives where your children can enjoy our Explorers children’s clubs. Anything is possible. 

Tell us about the children’s clubs that are a feature of Scott Dunn trips.
We run wonderful Explorers children’s clubs at luxury hotels in Europe, Thailand and the Maldives that are available for children aged from four months to 13 years. All our clubs are staffed by fully qualified childcare professionals who provide an exciting, tailor-made programme of on- and off-site activities. The children are divided into four age groups, and we offer one of the best nanny-to-child ratios in the industry, so the children get plenty of individual attention. For those who want more private childcare, our villas in the Mediterranean and ski chalets in the Alps can come with a fully qualified nanny if required, alongside the Scott Dunn private chef and host which come as standard. These great childcare options ensure that everyone has an enjoyable and relaxing holiday.

 

 

What’s been your most memorable travel destination or experience to date?
Difficult question! It sounds predictable but it’s hard to beat my first sight of the Taj Mahal. I’d seen a thousand pictures but when I finally got there in person, it surpassed all my expectations. I was utterly mesmerised. The fact that it is surrounded by the chaos and dirt of Agra only adds to its serenity and magnificence.

Have you travelled much in Asia? Got a favourite city, sight or experience in the region
Asia is my favourite region of the world to travel in. More than anything it’s the food – give me something hot and salty from a street stall and I am a happy man! I spent my honeymoon in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Laos really captured my imagination – the people were gentle and welcoming; and it felt less frantic than the other places we visited. We were there during Songkran; I remember being repeatedly doused by kids with buckets of water, which was the perfect antidote to the humidity.

You’re a father of three children who you’ve travelled with quite widely. What’s the secret to successful family travel?
Don’t stop! A lot of people think exotic holidays are over the minute their first baby is born. But that needn’t be the case. Kids love to travel; and the more you keep travelling with them, the more relaxed you become. You just need to adjust your habits: don’t try and cram so much in; fly overnight if you’re going long-haul; and make sure you’ve always got the next meal planned.

What’s the one item you’d never leave out of your suitcase, and out of your children’s suitcase?
My suitcase: my swimming trunks. I can’t imagine being in the presence of a swimming pool and not being able to dive straight in. My children’s suitcase: iPads. What did we ever do before?

Three hot travel destinations for 2015

We asked Graham to peer into the crystal ball and tell us which three destinations would be the “big thing” among travellers this year.

  • New Zealand – perfect for couples and parents with older children; so many amazing adventures to be had and a wide range of activities for all ages.
  • Sri Lanka – a wonderful destination for couples and families alike; twinning with the Maldives makes for a great culture and beach itinerary.
  • NIYAMA, the Maldives – with our new Explorers children’s club launching in Spring this year, this is a fantastic place for those families looking for a relaxing island getaway.

 

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