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‘Conscious travel emerges as a rising trend’

The burgeoning “younger” affluent travellers’ segment is certainly keeping us occupied. The integration of artificial intelligence and its evolving role in this realm promises exciting prospects for the future, says Christine Galle-Luczak, Founder & Managing Director, Heavens Portfolio in an interaction with Prasenjit Chakraborty.

Q.1.What inspired you to establish Heavens Portfolio, and how has your vision evolved since its inception?

Heavens Portfolio is a labour of love and passion inspired by the need to discover new territories and travel experiences. A dream that I continue to carefully grow and goals we continue to achieve year on year. Having spent more than twenty-four years in Asia, this captivating continent never ceases to amaze me. In 2001, I was appointed the Director of Sales and Marketing at Chiva‐Som, Thailand, a phenomenal experience where I truly understood the value of luxury hospitality. This enriching environment is what prompted the conception of an independent business venture that would fuse my former experience and expertise.

I was keen on providing personal marketing strategies for truly extraordinary travel destinations. As a result, Heavens Portfolio was launched in July 2005 in Singapore and grew to be the leader in Hotel and destination representation in Asia with satellite offices where 80 team members are currently providing their expertise to a portfolio of 50 hotels amongst them are Cheval Blanc by LVMH, Armani, Belmond, Oetker, Capella, Chiva-Som and many more iconic hotels.

Q.2.Could you share some insights into the unique challenges and opportunities you’ve encountered as a CEO in the luxury travel industry?

I find that our industry has come a long way and we no longer suffer what could be seen 20 years ago. Women have a greater share of voice, can express themselves and be heard and enjoy a significantly larger representation on the C-suite. Moreover, I have been very fortunate to encounter people who believed in me and supported me through the span of my career. This offered me a wonderful platform to learn and also opened doors for me that allowed me to grow the business. And I think that’s the secret sauce for success. Be it partners or team members, you need a circle of influence that’s invested in you, believes in you and is committed to walk with you.

Q.3.How does Heavens Portfolio differentiate itself in a competitive market, and what strategies do you employ to maintain a strong position?

The birth of Heavens Portfolio in itself continues to disrupt the market since its inception. My vision and mission to inspire has translated to the agency’s comprehensive network across the region, allowing Heavens Portfolio to deliver clients’ messages, philosophies and unique experiences to influential trade and consumer audiences in the entire Asia and Middle East markets.
In doing so, Heavens Portfolio’s unique cross-marketing approach creates and bolsters brand awareness, influences decision-making, supports sales efforts, and secures editorial coverage in the markets that matter. What it does is truly inspire and educate travellers, media, influencers, and the travel trade as well as encourage them to write or book with our clients- as if Heavens Portfolio was simply an extension of our client’s own sales and marketing team.

Q.4. What trends do you foresee shaping the luxury travel sector in the coming years, and how is Heavens Portfolio adapting to stay ahead?

Conscious travel is becoming increasingly popular as a trend where you are employing the time and money spent in travelling to bring value for not just the travellers but also the community they visit.

The up-and-coming “younger” affluent segment of travellers is for sure keeping us busy too!  Artificial intelligence and all the changes that it brings in that space will be fun to work with in the coming years.

We are incorporating, in our strategic planning, a lot of end consumer events which are targeted to ensure consumers understand the true proposition of our brands. This comes in many different forms– one can bring a specialist/ expert to share his knowledge and experience; other events are wellness-driven where we can bring in doctors or experts in healing who can share recommendations for healthy aging. The idea is to equip the end consumer first so they can make a well-informed decision for their travel plans. We often collaborate with third parties such as concierge agencies or consortia, in order to build such events. This is also when we can expose the sustainability approach of our clients with a greater impact.

Other plans in our development is to look for properties that are located “out of the beaten track” which seems to be where the luxury travellers seem to be increasingly interested. Moving away from only city hubs and exploring authentic remote areas.

These are just a few examples, however we have many others that are in the pipeline to ensure we are up to speed with ever-changing trends.

Q.5.As a leader, what values and principles guide your decision-making process within Heavens Portfolio, especially concerning sustainability and responsible tourism?

As the CEO and founder, my leadership philosophy is grounded in a deep commitment to empowering individuals, fostering innovation, and driving sustainable growth. At the core of my approach is rooted in a steadfast commitment to vision, service, and adaptability. By embodying these principles and inspiring others to do the same, I am confident that we can chart a course toward sustained success, meaningful impact, and enduring value for our organization and all those we serve.

Sustainability indeed is at the forefront of our values and deeply ingrained into the company’s foundation. Not only do team members travel responsibly themselves but as service providers we also support our hotel clients to share their best practices and explain to all actors of the markets how important these sustainability modalities are essential for perennial tourism. The duty goes beyond newsletters and other nicely designed EDM… as a company we understood very quickly that supporting foundations who have such practices in mind and educating and informing the next generation in such practices are not left behind.

That is why during the entire Covid crisis, Heavens Portfolio’s community outreach initiatives, we took the downtime as an opportunity and  endeavoured to forge a better world outlook for the company. Our focus for this and continues to be conservation and education. We supported and continue to support six foundations across Asia (specifically in India, the Philippines, Cambodia, Bali and within Singapore) and built up campaigns for them to ensure their words and efforts would also be recognised by our community.

Q.6. What message do you want to send to the budding women entrepreneurs?

The younger generation and the way they see the world gives me a lot of hope – looking at my 11-year-old and what she has already identified as being most important in our travels is comforting as it really shows her mind is already thinking about combining new technology, platforms and tools available as well as how these can apply to formulate solutions to some of our immediate issues.

My advice for young women – Have confidence in your abilities and believe that you can succeed in the travel industry. Trust your instincts and don’t underestimate your potential. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Be adaptable and resilient in the face of adversity. Find mentors who can offer guidance, support, and valuable insights based on their experiences. Seek out both male and female mentors who can provide diverse perspectives. Attend industry events, conferences, and networking gatherings to connect with peers, potential mentors, and leaders in the field.

My advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs –  Don’t be afraid to speak up and assert yourself in meetings, negotiations, and professional interactions. Be confident in expressing your ideas and advocating for your career advancement. While it’s important to be confident in your abilities, also remain humble and open to feedback. Recognize that there is always room for improvement and be willing to learn from others. Lift up other women in the industry and create a supportive community where everyone can thrive. Celebrate the achievements of fellow female professionals and champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

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