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Q&A SIMON WESTCOTT, CEO & Owner,
LUXE City Guides

The debonair Simon Westcott has a keen eye for what is trending in travel. For seven years he was global publisher of Lonely Planet, moving on to be co -founder and Chairman of Mr and Mrs Smith Asia. Now Westcott, one of TLTB's favourite people, takes the helm at LUXE City Guides, heading an acquisition with fellow investors, including Julian Knights, founding partner of Ironbridge Capital (who will take on the role of chairman).  "We've known Simon since 2007 and he's always been very passionate about Luxe, and after a while it became clear that it was a good fit and that it would work", said LUXE founder Grant Thatcher, who stays on. "You know sometimes the heavens open up and the sun shines and you say, 'yes, let's do this'."  Westcott has big plans for LUXE City Guides, we caught up with him to find out what's the latest in luxury travel trends because you can bet he knows.

We're fans of LUXE City Guides  - who needs a 100 good travel suggestions when you can have just  a few great ones. What is the single best/defining thing about LUXE?
I think it is this intensity of flavour in the LUXE guides - like a rigorously reduced jus.  LUXE just really delivers curatorially - while making you laugh out loud in the process.
As well as taking the helm at Luxe Guides you are Chairman and co-Founder, Mr & Mrs Smith Asia Pacific what is it about the business of boutique that attracts you?
I love the individuality and uniqueness of the best of boutique - both from the passionate 'makers' of boutique hotels, or artisan grocers, or bespoke jewellers and in the sophisticated but unpretentious nature of the travellers who seek out these experiences.   Travel for me has always been a conversation with other travellers -where have you been, where did you stay, what should I do, what should I miss?  'Boutique' just makes this conversation more interesting.

Simon Westcott, CEO AND FOUNDER of LUXE city guides

What's new in the line-up for LUXE?
Well - it's going to be an exciting year.  We're heading to Kuala Lumpur, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires, for our first new print guides in two years.  We're launching a new look website in July, with a new app following a few months later, and we're entering the Chinese mainland market by the end of the year.  And all this built around a pretty significantly increased update cycle - moving print guides from every 2 years to annual and streaming fresh -but still rigorously curated -recommendations to the site and app monthly, eventually across all destinations.
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the 'luxury' tag?
Quality of design and finish, attention to detail in service, frictionless technology (no pain, no price), fresh and fabulous food, and a sense of unstuffy exclusivity. 
What is the next big luxury travel trend?
I think it will be about the quality and range of luxury adventure experiences.  One day I'd love to do LUXE Adventures, but we've got a few other things to focus on for a few years!
What are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
Song Saa Resort & Spa in Cambodia -original luxury, passionately delivered, in a unique spot.  I just hope they slowed down the speedboat transfer
The Connaught - for location, a perfect blend of old and new, and London's best cocktail bar.  Still one of my favourite Christmases.
The Upper House - the perfect Zen blend of food, service, design, views and vibe.  Just wish it had a spa.
You're now a frequent visitor to Hong Kong -what's your first LUXE-worthy discovery?
The bespoke tailor Moustache on Aberdeen Street in Sheung Wan - suits with a hipster smile
 
What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
Nahm at the Metropolitan in Bangkok, especially if David Thompson comes and explains the recipe.
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
As an adopted Australian (or a Brit who adopted Australia), I can't quite shake my preference for Qantas up front, even if the bed isn't the biggest.  I think the First Class Lounge experiences in Sydney and Melbourne help.
A bit of dust on your Donna Karan pants doesn't hurt.  Some of my most luxurious experiences have come at the end of adventure
You once said that travel should always be both a physical and a spiritual adventure? Could you expand on that?
I suppose I mean that pushing yourself a little - going further, connecting more deeply - is more rewarding than just keeping the creature comforts at the surface.  A bit of dust on your Donna Karan pants doesn't hurt.  Some of my most luxurious experiences have come at the end of adventure - like Bodega Colome in Argentina, for example, a wine-making estate a hair-raising 4 hour drive into the Andes, complete with its own private James Turrell Museum and some of the oldest producing vines on the continent.  Sadly no longer a hotel, which kind of proves the point.
 
What three things do you never travel without?
My Ghurka chestnut leather holdall; a light sarong; my Macair.
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
My first meal at The Royal Mail - Dan Hunter's 10 course omnivore degustation menu - blew my mind away, however basic the accommodation around it.  It's why my partner and I went back to Dunkeld to celebrate our 20th with friends.  I can't wait to try Brae.
What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN  buy?
A VIP airport meet and greet and air-conditioned transfer to the hotel
What is the most important thing it can't?
Gracious and interesting hosts at the end of a long journey.
Luxury Travel Links: www.luxecityguides.com/ 
Posted 31/3/14
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