Jacqueline Campbell, managing director of The Travel Collection tells ATN about the unique style of luxury found at her individual properties.
If there's one person who has her finger on the pulse when it comes to the luxury travel industry, it's Jacqueline Campbell. A Dubai veteran, 10 years ago Campbell, who was corporate director of sales and marketing for Jebel Ali Hotels and Golf resorts at the time, realised there was a gap in the market for someone offering sales and marketing support to individual luxury hotel properties around the world.
Approaching her 40th birthday, she decided to take the leap and set up The Travel Collection, which 10 years on now represents over 40 premium properties to the Middle East market.
"Next year is a big year for me," states Campbell. "I'm 50 years of age; it's been 10 years of running The Travel Collection and 15 years in Dubai."
Her energy and enthusiasm for the business are completely unrelenting, which is clearly what has made The Travel Collection such a success.
Each property in the portfolio has been carefully hand-picked for its individuality, levels of service and style, as well as for the ‘experiences' afforded to each guest.
"When we travel we are looking for a special experience," says Campbell. "I went to one of our properties Shanti Ananda Maurice in Mauritius and if you asked me what I remember most, it was swimming with the dolphins. The property is amazing, but the special experience was the dolphins."
While chain brands provide a certain level of comfort and security, Campbell believes it is the individual nature of each property she represents that makes them appeal to the affluent traveller.
"When people want to travel somewhere different and unique and not your international hotel groups, they look at properties like ours. Look at the luxury institutional properties like the Savoy in London and the Maybourne that have been going for years and years. They've got an individuality to them and are very unique in their style."
The recession has undoubtedly been a difficult time for the travel industry, but Campbell says that far from witnessing any major drop in demand, the trend at the high-end of the market has been a focus on ‘value'.
"In the past it was "I'll pay whatever but I want to go there". Now people are asking, where is a destination that's good value for money? Send me your special offers for all your hotels, and where people have seen the most attractive is where they've gone."
"It doesn't necessarily mean cheap," she clarifies. "The upper-end market wants to look after their money too. They still want to stay somewhere nice but they think - we may not go for two weeks, we may only go for 10 days. So we have seen a shortening of stays and taking advantage of the special offers."
In terms of hot spot destinations, Campbell says Europe has been the stand-out favourite from the Middle East this year.
"London has been phenomenal this year. GCC travellers love it.
"We have also seen huge increases to Austria, Switzerland and Germany. However, I understand talking to the industry that Paris is down slightly, and that's to do with the new law being introduced banning burquas."
Campbell pegs Bali and South Africa as emerging destinations, as well as the US as a new up-and-coming favourite.
"We have certainly seen a bit more interest in America. Miami is very popular with cruising - a lot of companies such as Silversea and Royal Caribbean stop there. Florida is big with DisneyLand, and Los Angeles is the home of shopping and very popular for studying in this part of the world."
For Campbell, the key to establishing The Travel Collection has been developing successful relationships with the region's travel trade - relationships that she has built up through years of dedicated sales calls. "At the end of the day I am a very old fashioned sales person," explains Campbell. "I believe in relationships and I believe in pounding the streets. I have a passion for sales and that's what's kept me going all these years."
Her motto is to ‘drip feed' crucial information to agents: "What I find is that so often people go in and throw spaghetti at travel agents - by that I mean they throw all the information - 50 bedrooms, 16 restaurants and then they leave. We always try to leave three main messages. One could be the location of the property, two could be something that's unique about the property: it could be that the Viceroy in Miami is right next door to Nobu; it could be that at Hotel Sacher in Salzburg guests can experience the famous Café Sacher."
Ultimately people buy into Campbell's collection because they trust her judgment.
"Buying anything is a matter of trust and the longer I've lived here I've taken on more of the Arab ways," says Campbell. "When I first started in Dubai I was taught that people will work with you if they trust you. It's only by building a relationship that people become more open and honest. That's when it becomes a friendship," she says.