In conversation with Raoul Fokke
Recently we had a chance to speak with the founder of Act of Travel Raoul Fokke about the current situation with traveling and about his newly launched company.
Who are you (the long answer, no cheating by just giving your name!) and what is your profession (as in, how do you define it, rather than just the job title it has)?
Born in Amsterdam and raised globally. 30 years young and have always had a passion for hospitality which was ignited during one of the many travels with my parents. It was one particular trip; I was having breakfast with my parents in the hotel and the General Manager passed by our table, he did this with such grace and personality that I decided there and then that I wanted to have his job at some point in life, to convey that same feeling and experience to people that I had there that very moment.
Fast forward 20 years later, having worked in several hotels for a couple of years including larger brands such as Fairmont Raffles & Swissotel (FRHI) and the luxury division of Hyatt Hotels Corporation. I founded Act Of Travel with a mission to design bespoke travel experiences for the modern and cultured traveller – we are not for tourists.
As a “travel designer” we are moving away from the traditional travel agent. The fact that we are not steered by commissions from hotels, airlines etc. enables us to be completely serve our clients unbiased, resulting in a truly curated and tailor-made travel experience. All our clients are unique individuals and so should be their travel experiences.
Because of my background in the hospitality world, I built a large and personal network that my clients benefit from. Concrete this means; that if I book my clients into a Lodge at Awasi Iguazu (Argentina) – they receive benefits such as complimentary upgrades, property credit, breakfast and a VIP treatment, simply because the Director is a personal contact.
Lastly we offer concierge level service also during the trip itself. Need a last-minute appointment at Bona Capello in Japan to design a custom made hat? We take care of it…
How do you think Covid-19 will affect the travel industry both long-term and short-term? How do you see the impact of Corona crisis on the general perception of travel? Do you believe everything will just go back to normal after Covid-19, or how do you see it will be?
The travel industry knows many layers – thus focussing on the individual leisure traveller. Short-term, the industry will have to focus on domestic travel and experiences. Client are going to want to take on short and local escapes to substitute not being able to travel abroad. Talking to our personal clients there trips will be mostly focussed on reconnecting with close friends and making sure that these escapes are meaningful.
As the borders gradually open up, the majority of travellers will stick to their own continent until there is a vaccine available. The travel experience is going to change in the sense that hygiene is becoming as much of an important topic as safety. Whereas we introduced intense security procedures after 9/11, we now will have to get used to intense hygiene related procedures during our travels.
As a luxury travel agency we are constantly evaluating what “luxury” means to our client base. With the impact of Covid-19 we believe that “Privacy” is going to be a key point for our clients. Think; private yet serviced accommodations, private experiences and private travel. Also people want to visually see that you are taking hygiene serious. Where in the past you would hardly see a cleaner walking around the hallways of the hotels, these exact staff members will now be put in the spotlight of the hospitality operation.
In conclusion, people are explorers and they will want to travel. However there will be more focus on transformative and conscious travel experience where people actually add something to local communities and the environment at the same time making sure that they draw new inspiration and perspectives from their trip.
How do you spend your Quarantine time and are you still able to create while being quarantined?
The majority of my clients are extremely eager to continue travel, so we are already talking about 2021 trips which gives some perspective. At the same time, I am keeping close touch with them by asking probing questions about their condition and state of mind related to travel in order to continue offering value whenever we are able to move around the world again. I don’t think that this situation is a reason to stop creating, it is actually a great time in history to sit focus and create without too many distractions. At the same time I try to find balance; working on future experiences and also simply taking time to disconnect and define what position my company will have in the new normal.
What is in your planning or was in your planning for this year and how will Covid-19 effect that?
One of my passions is to bring like minded people together; and travel is a strong tool to do so. I was planning to launch “AOT Adventures” which is something I will still do. These are short road trips (max 6 people) themed around craftmanship and taste makers within the creative industry. These trips would not take more than 3 days and are naturally completely catered and curated by Act of Travel. Purpose here is to bring people together, to create new bonds and share quality time together.
What is the coolest new thing you have learnt since being quarantined and how did you learn it?
Everything I do is very much design-led including my branding and the platforms we are on. I am quite particular about that.. therefore took an InDesign and Photoshop class as a starting point, just so I can exactly translate my branding ideas into graphics amongst others.
Tell us something about yourself that isn't on your resume (a secret skill, a hobby, a previous job or fun fact about you).
That I LOVE to sing, used to sing in a choir and miss it tremendously actually. Put me in any impromptu jamming session and I will be in right in my element.
What's the first place you'd want to go when it's safe again to travel and go out of our homes and why there?
There are two spots I want to go to (can’t pick)
I had planned a getaway with friends in April to Belgium. We would first visit a wine domain called “Valke Vleug” which is designed by architect Vincent van Duysen and then spend a night or two in The Bunkers, which is a modern farm house on the seaside of Belgium. The Farmhouse is set on a green pasture overlooking bunkers from WWI & WWII. Just like my clients I want to make sure that my trips are spend with friends to re-connect in person and to make sure it is meaningful. After that I cannot wait to travel to Latin America as planned to further explore Argentina, Chile and Colombia. Mostly excited to experience Patagonia and to explore the village of Barichara in Colombia. This village is known as an icon for beautiful arts and crafts. The former president spent his last years in this village and was known for his love of culture.
What is the first thing you like to do when you wake up, and last thing you like to do before going to bed?
I literally sit in a rocking chair for 10 minutes and stare outside. It helps me to pass through the random thoughts so I can stay focussed the rest of the day.
What is your favorite painting and has it inspired you for any of your work thus far?
At the moment it’s a painting made by Marcel Pinas. The art piece is very colourful with various shapes displayed next to each other. Guess why it speaks to me is because it translates to travel so well.. when you travel you learn how to appreciate new cultures, people in all shapes, sizes and colours.
Tell us about ACT OF TRAVEL. What made you start it and what is the story behind the brand?
I felt within my own network there was a need for trusted curation when it comes to travel. There is so much information available on the internet that it is difficult to determine whether a certain travel experience fits your personality and travel style… and not everyone has time to conduct such extensive research. A traditional travel agency that sells travel packages does not comply to my client’s need in a world where everything is custom made and intuitive. We basically bridge that gap and offer human curation whilst making use of technology, ensuring that whatever experience we come up with fits your travel style. Our network of clients are like minded, modern travellers. Lots of them are active in the creative industries or are top athletes and they require a certain level of understanding.
How do you think traveling will pick-up after COVID-19?
As mentioned before travel will pick up in phases as borders gradually open up. Especially in early stages people will be more drawn to go on a road trip by car to avoid being in crowded places such as airports and airplanes. However as history shows… us humans are forgetful and we are explorers by nature. Therefore I expect that the level of travel will be back in years – however with a changed mentality (which I touched on earlier too )
What is your favourite place you have traveled to so far and why?
I am all about nature when it comes to personal travel. One spot comes to mind which is the west side of Norway. I have a friend who owns a cabin in the middle of the mountains overlooking a major Fjord. I spent three days in that cabin and there was not a person in sight! I absolutely loved it. That entire west -coast is just magical to drive along, I was constantly in awe by the beauty of nature.
Tell me about some must visit places you would definitely recommend to our readers.
I am all about private escapes these days so here is my top three:
- Harlosh on the Isle of Skye – a modern hide away on a beautiful island. Step out your door to spot otters, dolphin’s and even an odd sheep or two.
- Zanier Lodge in Sonop, Namibia – spectacular views over the dessert from your luxurious tented camp completely design in British colonial style.
- Buahjar in Sicily – Minimalistic house set in the mountains of Sicily working with fresh produce and I just love all the details of the house.
photos by Jan Jelle de Boer