The Business of Luxury: Andrew Dunn on what sets luxury tour operator Scott Dunn apart from online-only agents

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Source: Greg Sigston

"The human touch has become one of the most vital parts of the luxury travel experience.

At Scott Dunn we actively encourage people to pick up the phone to us if they’re new, because if you’re planning a really complex tour of, let’s say, Latin America or Africa, you need to be able to discuss it thoroughly and understand what the guest wants. And the thing about having a long history with your guests – we have phenomenal repeat business – is that we will bend over backwards for them.

We profile all of our guests and really get to know them. We understand what their wants and dislikes are. If they want that blackout curtain in their room, by God we’re going to make sure that blackout curtain is there.

It’s all about that attention to detail. If a guest is on a longer holiday, they don’t want to be transiting through Dubai in the middle of the night when they’ve got four children under the age of six. It’s just not very sensible.

It’s the relationship our guests have with us, and the relationship that we have with those properties that make it all work.

So we think about these details, anticipate needs, and are right there when they need us. The reality of luxury travel is you need a voice on the end of the telephone, who’s really competent, but has phenomenal backup.

The second piece of the puzzle is our relationship with GMs all over the world, the people running the hotels, the lodges and the camps. We make it our business to have those relationships. It’s a very different arrival for a Scott Dunn guest versus someone who’s done it – well, I won’t be disingenuous – through one of the online booking companies. Their business model is to churn ‘em, churn ‘em, churn ‘em, but when you try and get somebody on the end of the telephone when something goes wrong, or it’s the middle of the night in Africa, it’s impossible. We have 24 hour service: an office in California eight hours behind, London and Chichester on GMT, and then we’ve got Singapore, which is eight hours ahead. You get to speak to a human who knows exactly what they’re talking about, and your call hasn’t gone through to some inscrutable triage system.

We can open up the pyramids and host a monster dinner for 200 people, no problem, and that’s headline stuff. But equally it’s making sure a couple has got the right table for dinner on their special occasion. It’s as simple as that. It’s the relationship our guests have with us, and the relationship that we have with those properties that make it all work."

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