Gone are the days when luxury travel was equated with luxurious hotels and fine dining. The definition of luxury has changed.
Liesl Venter spoke to Nicky Fitzgerald, CEO of Angama Mara, to find out more about what goes into hosting the super-wealthy.
“Luxury is a word we tend to avoid using at Angama Mara, for the reason that it can mean completely different things to different people,” says Fitzgerald. She says luxury nowadays is about bespoke care for each person.
“For us, luxury lies in exceptional service (we have a 3:1 staff to guest ratio), along with an open-arm welcome unhindered by any physical barriers. At the very core of Angama Mara’s raison d’être is always putting guest delight first, so for us, our brand of luxury is all about being taken care of by people who truly regard the guest as their reason for being.”
“We have found that contrary to what some may believe, what the ultra-rich want most is simplicity. In today’s world, many people are suffering from a surfeit of stuff and there is a beautiful sophistication in simplicity – less is often more,” says Fitzgerald.
“Usually, the ultra-rich are both time-poor and weary of classic luxury, which means the size of the suite, the number of bottle of wines in the cellar and thread-count of the sheets probably all hold little weight – more important is the extent to which a holiday touches their heart and moves their soul.”
According to Fitzgerald, while it is difficult to generalise when it comes to the travel habits of the ultra-rich, they have found these travellers have a real desire to reconnect in a beautiful location where most of the distractions of busy, modern life are removed.
“The ultra-wealthy can be over-worked and over-stressed people, who want to experience other cultures that seem to have a slower pace of life, greater emphasis on enjoyment and more focus on spending time with family and friends.”
Much emphasis is placed on delivering a completely tailormade experience to each guest.
“We tailor this according to the wish list of each guest. For some, a day out looking for the Mara’s iconic lion prides may be the perfect safari, while others may be more interested in adding new bird species to their life list. A private vehicle is a nice way to ensure guests have a completely personalised experience.”
“In terms of keeping guests entertained, our team invests in guest experiences in creative ways that enhance their time at the lodge and out in the Mara. For example, last year we opened both our Shamba – a one-acre kitchen garden where guests can enjoy a private garden-to-fork meal under the shade of giant moth trees – as well as our photographic studio, where guests are offered photography tutorials, the opportunity to interact with expert photographic guides as well as access to the latest equipment.”
Making sure guests have the experience they are after requires a close partnership with agents and trade partners, says Fitzgerald. “We rely heavily on agents who deal directly with their clientele to provide us with all the information we need to tailor-make the stay.”
Whilst the question of privacy does vary from guest to guest, the ability to safeguard a guest from any kind of intrusion is critical.
“Confidentiality is key and we never divulge the identity of any guest before, during or after their stay at Angama Mara,” says Fitzgerald. “At our price point, we may have a CEO of a blue-chip corporation staying here at the same time as a well-known celebrity and neither would be any the wiser.”
She says while some guests love to interact with other guests and staff alike, others prefer to keep to themselves.
“One of the ways we get this right is by offering a range of private dining locations, including in-room, more public spaces at the lodge or even a picnic served up on the same kopje featured in the Out of Africa movie poster.”