This week’s travel expert has a job many of us would envy – Hilary Doling is a luxury travel guru! The Luxury Travel Bible is an online magazine for lovers of sheer indulgence and road testing all the properties to make sure they make the grade is Editor in Chief, Hilary. We asked her to share her knowledge of luxury destinations, first class travel and celebrity hotspots.
The Luxury Travel Bible is exactly how it sounds– what made you decide to set up the website?
We felt there was a gap in the market for good independent reporting on all things luxurious on a site that actually looked good too (a lot of websites are pretty ugly and with travel people need to dream a little and be inspired) and we were right. We cherry-pick, we’re not all encompassing. If we were a hotel we’d be boutique not a multi-national chain. We only write about what we really like; what we’d recommend to our friends.
How does one become a luxury travel guru like yourself?
It takes vigorous training… daily bench presses on a massage table, swimming long distance in a plunge pool, serious laps of the buffet bar… No, actually like so many good things in life it just evolved naturally; a progression from general journalism to travel editing to a more particular area of specialisation.
How many times a day do you get told ‘I want your job’?
Two million, five hundred and ninety nine times! People always love the sound of my job and I never forget what a privilege it is. I still get a frisson of excitement every time I get on a plane.
You are a very well travelled lady, could you name your Top 5 luxury destinations?
There are some amazing places in the world but if I had to choose just five I think I’d pick:
1. Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bali for the sheer beauty of the extraordinary architecture and the glorious cliff-top location
2. Banyan Tree Ringha, China for its remoteness and the Tibetan culture right on its doorstep
3. Huvafen Fushi, Maldives because you have to have one ultimate paradise island resort and this is it
4. Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman for its rocky backdrop and the drama of its check in (you can opt to arrive by para-glider)
5. Matakauri Lodge, New Zealand – from the family who also own Kauri Cliffs & Cape Kidnappers – for its style, service and Lord of the Rings setting.
There are so many more… I haven’t even mentioned city destinations…Paris, New York. Do I really have to stick to five?
What elements does a resort need to have to make it into The Luxury Travel Bible?
Just having five stars isn’t enough – cookie cutter hotels or resorts don’t really appeal to us. If you have to say “It’s Thursday it must be Hamburg” because the three other hotels you’ve stayed in all look identical to the one you’re in now then you’re not in a The Luxury Travel Bible hotel. We look for location and design style – somewhere really beautiful can make your heart sing – and service, service, service because ultimately it is the people you meet in the hotel that make your stay. We are about the luxury of the experience and the originality not simply the price tag.
Which is your favourite airline for first and business travel?
Interestingly when I ask top executives this question 90 per cent of them say Singapore Airlines and the service and space, particularly on the A380s is amazing. However I also think Virgin’s Upper Class does a great job of combining the classes at the top end and offering a lot for the money – love those in-flight hand massages. I have a soft spot for British Airways because they introduced the first truly flat beds in the sky, forget all those ergonomically design sloping seats, most people just want a bed that’s horizontal.
What’s your ultimate travel accessory?
I wish I could say my Louis Vuitton luggage or my vintage Hasselblad camera but sadly these days it’s an iPad.
Have you ever experienced something you felt was too lavish? (Is there such a thing?!)
Hmm… tricky one this one. For me a hotel is too lavish if it is completely cut off from its surroundings. Clearly there are some cases in which ‘the hotel is the destination’ but I don’t like being too ‘vacuum packed’. I like to have some connection with the culture of the country I am in. I did stay at one resort in Asia where I was followed everywhere by a flotilla of about five butlers presumably so that my every whim could be met in an instant (or perhaps there just wasn’t anything good on TV in the staff quarters). I did think that was going a touch too far.
Most surreal moment?
Those butlers were up there. But Royal Malewane game reserve, South Africa is a pretty surreal place. In the middle of the African bush I found myself in a ridiculously opulent suite (that Elton John had recently vacated) with Persian carpets, oriental antiques – and an elephant drinking out of my swimming pool.
Best celebrity spot?
The Caribbean is a perennial hot spot but thanks to Jade Jagger and her designs for Baglioni Marrakech they are all heading to Morocco these days.
If you could live in 1 luxury destination for the rest of your life which would you choose and why?
Staying in one luxury resort for the rest of my life isn’t really my idea of heaven. I suspect paradise is only paradise because we don’t have it every day.
How do you indulge yourself when not travelling?
Family, friends, good conversation, good food – ideally a combination of all four.
What’s hot in luxury travel for 2012?
There are some interesting things happening in Central and South America with new design hotels and adventure experiences in places like Uruguay and Brazil. Shanghai has five star fever and I’d get to Bhutan before they build one luxury hotel too many.
Follow more of Hilary’s luxury adventures via twitter. Inspired to book your own luxury tailor-made holiday? Contact Flight Centre First and Business for unbeatable customer service from personal travel experts.