Bespoke travel planning is on the rise in Asia – here’s what Singapore’s luxury travellers want on their trips

Ausangate in the Peru Andes
Jacada Travel

Bespoke experiences are gaining traction among the rich in Asia.

Those are able to afford tens of thousands of dollars on a bespoke trip are looking not just for a get away but an experience that will leave a lasting impression.

Instead of just shopping in Tokyo or riding elephants in Jaipur, luxury travellers are asking for much more – from temple stays in Japan’s mountains to exclusive meetings with India’s spiritual teachers.

Alex Malcolm, the founder and managing director of bespoke travel planning agency Jacada Travel, says his company provides “experiential travel” by focusing on the feelings and memories clients take home with them after a trip.

So instead of what they expect to see, it’s what they did not expect that should matter, he says.

Demand for such bespoke travel experiences has grown tremendously over the years in other parts of the world, and it seems the trend is catching on in Asia as well.

The UK company has had an average growth of 35 per cent in the past four years, and now has four offices around the world – London, Capetown, Santiago and Hong Kong.

Its Asian business has also grown since setting up office in Hong Kong in 2014, with Singapore registering a year-on-year growth of 20 per cent.

“We want to do more client engagement out here (in Singapore),” Malcolm tells Business Insider during a recent trip to the city.

What Singaporeans want

While one might assume such luxury travel experiences involve lots of run-of-the-mill features such as limousine rides and champagne, Malcolm says that is not what Jacada’s Singapore travellers are after.

“It’s not about ostentatious luxury so much, it’s about how you feel after you’ve had that trip.

“Sometimes, real luxury is having someone be thoughtful for you… not just putting a bottle of champagne in your room but thinking about what actually makes you smile,” he says.

Unlike the UK, where many travellers are often in search of exotic experiences in warm and humid climates, Singapore’s travellers yearn for adventures in cold weather destinations such as the Antarctic, Iceland and Scandinavia.

According to Jacada Travel’s website, a package to the Arctic islands in winter would set one back by at least S$15,498 per person, while the price of a winter tour of Scandinavia starts from S$24,901 for each traveller.

It’s no surprise that Singaporeans, being foodies, also want the culinary element in their travels.

“Singaporeans love to explore the other diversities of food elsewhere as well, so that’s always high on the list,” Malcolm tells us.

And this is where travel designers in bespoke agencies can work their magic, getting clients into some of the most sought-after or exclusive diners in the world.

But at the top of many Singaporeans’ lists is the issue of safety. Afterall, many exotic travel destinations are not commonly explored and can seem pretty mysterious to tourists.

Asked how the company assures its clients that their trips to far flung corners of the Earth are safe, Malcolm says the key is in providing enough support to help travellers feel safe.

For example, not only does the company have staff present in four continents worldwide, they also make sure their travel planners have extensive knowledge and experience in the destinations clients travel to.

He says: “If you can talk people through step by step, and give them the confidence to do something they wouldn’t do on their own – isn’t that nice?”

Providing sustainable travels

Jacada Travel’s approach is centred largely on providing travellers with what Malcolm calls “uplifting” travel, and doing something you never imagined was possible is definitely uplifting in many ways.

But the agency is also providing positive experiences in other ways, most notably through its commitment to sustainable travelling.

As part of its sustainability policy, Jacada Travel makes a donation for every trip sold. Half of these donations goes to community projects, while the other half is given to conservation projects.

Wildlife in the Galapagos
Roy Lamsam via Jacada Travel

And from May this year, Jacada Travel has also been making further donations to charitable community projects in Brazil, Cambodia and Tanzania which have a positive carbon impact to account for all the emissions on the trips clients make with them.

Upon return, travellers will be sent a note thanking them for the donations made possible through their trips, encouraging them to feel positive about their holiday experience.

“It touches on the idea that we want to make travel uplifting,” Malcolm says, adding that “there is an urgency, not only to see things but to protect them too”.