In this series of interviews we talk to likeminded individuals who are motivated by perfection. Whether it be an overlooked product, service or skill, it’s about giving something the respect it deserves. People who have set out to challenge the norms and strive for the best.
Here we catch up with Geordie Mackay-Lewis, Ex British Army Officer turned COO of Cookson Adventures a travel company that is turning the industry on its head with completely bespoke, often never done before, travel experiences that offer unrivalled creativity and meticulous planning.
TELL US ABOUT COOKSON ADVENTURES, WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO THE LUXURY TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
Cookson Adventures was the brainchild of my business partner and former record-breaking polar explorer Henry Cookson. It started with some adhoc adventure ideas and has grown with demand to push the limits and offer one-off, far-flung adventure experiences. Essentially we are flipping the traditional ‘bespoke’ travel model on its head. Where they start with the accommodation and build a holiday or experience around it, we start with the experience, wherever that is on the planet and finish with the accommodation. We look at tribal events, geographical events, wildlife events – something extraordinary and often completely remote. For example, there was a tribal event that hadn’t happened for three years and we parachuted someone in with 5 days notice. The accommodation is built around the experience, so we’ll build an exclusive bespoke luxury camp inside a volcano in the Galapagos islands or sail a private yacht to the Arctic to see polar bears. Each trip is truly bespoke, unique and never repeated. We are a low volume high value offering, last year we only ran 12 adventures, with a team of more than 12 people in the office. Most other people in the industry can’t believe how we are doing that.
WHAT’S THE MOST RECENT PROJECT YOU’VE WORKED ON?
A special forces kidnapping jungle experience for a client and his 10 friends in Cambodia. We worked with location producer for the Tomb Raider film and it involved guns, explosives, 12 actors, ex-khmer rouge soldiers, fake villages and two helicopters. The guests thought they were going to see Angor Wat. As everything is bespoke you get no test run, you run them live so as you can imagine there was a lot of prep work, that project was 9 months total. As part of the same trip we travelled through Hang son Doong in Vietnam, the world’s largest caves discovered 5 years ago, you can fly a 747 through it and it has its own river and micro climate. It’s pretty incredible.Then finally some relaxation at the end on a private yacht sailing around Vietnamese islands in the South China Sea. Whilst that’s not everyone’s scene or budget, people take away the creativity and meticulous detail that we deliver.
WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER AND WHAT IS THEIR MOTIVATION?
No such thing as a typical customer and we can’t exactly run data analytics for them. They are spending upwards of £100,000 and sometimes into millions. They rarely have a prescribed budget or a brief, they just want to see what we come up with. We don’t do any proactive sales or marketing, relying on word of mouth and repeat business.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WHAT IS THE DREAM HOLIDAY THESE DAYS?
I think the key is a combination of a truly unique experiences and ensuring that you come back fully recharged and relaxed. everyone has a different idea of what makes a holiday, the beauty is we can make it whatever you want, there literally is no limit. experiential travel is the fastest growing part of the travel market, people want to invest in experiences rather than material things and we’ve seen this with lots of our guests.
AND WHAT ABOUT FOR YOU, WHAT DOES DOWNTIME LOOK LIKE?
I have some time off coming up and I’m actually going on an accelerator freefall course in Spain. but I guess that isn’t going to be completely relaxing so I wouldn’t say no to sitting by a pool in Antibes for few days this summer.
If you are interested in planning a trip with Henry Cookson, please contact and quote ‘HAMILTON AND HARE’ firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0) 207 736 0452