When one thinks of five-star hospitality, it often brings up images of decadent luxury, pillow menus, personal waiters, and perks that you simply don’t get in day-to-day life. Lobsters and peeled grapes, chauffeured cars and business class seats… sure, all of these things will make one feel like a king or queen, but we believe that hospitality is a very subjective thing. Actually – we think the very definition of a word is due for a rewrite.
Indeed, when some of our guests read trip details about lunch in the jungle, traffic jams in Asia’s big cities, and diving with sharks, the word ‘hospitality’ isn’t something that comes to mind immediately.
Hmm… that sounds like a challenge!
For Smiling Albino, hospitality isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, or a commodity that you can just throw money at to purchase. Hospitality is both emotional and tangible. It resonates with your sense of adventure, but also connects with your desire to feel safe.
For instance, we believe our hospitality begins on your first contact with Smiling Albino. We’ve put a lot of time into training our staff so that they reply in the best way possible – they are experts in not only answering the questions you send, but offering answers to questions you might not even know you have. Reading between the lines, our superstar staff can infer a lot about what your want, what you need, and where your blind spots are about travel in Asia.
Hospitality can also be very tangible. On our Kulen Mountain Discovery Trail trip in Cambodia, we hike past tall trees and 800-year old stone ruins, while crossing rivers and spotting wildlife. It’s hot and sweaty and mysterious… but then you round a corner and see a dining table at the foot of a waterfall, complete with white tablecloth, silver cutlery, and a waiter ready to serve you a cold drink and delicious lunch. We call this jungle hospitality.
But let’s take it further. In 2011, travel consultants Horwath HTL released a study that said luxury travel was now about getting back to basics, focusing on authenticity and personalization. It seems that luxury travel had come full circle, back to its roots.
We couldn’t agree more.
At first glance, a story about sitting on a short stool on the dirt floor of a jungle hut, poking a fire with a stick doesn’t come off as a luxury experience. But when you’re doing it as the guest of an Akha family, who have welcomed you into their home to show you how they roast the coffee that grows in their backyard, it takes on a new sheen. As you swap stories, ask questions, and tell jokes (with the help of a translator, of course!), your trip is taken to a more personal, meaningful level. The surroundings might not be five-star, but the hospitality sure is.
We think this approach to hospitality can be – should be – applied across the board. If you’d like lobster and high thread counts and private flights on your trip to Asia, we can definitely make that happen. But we also think that the minor little tweaks that we specialize in can bring real value to experiences that might, at first, be dismissed as modest and almost forgettable.
Like many things in life, a bit of perspective and a talent for making old ideas new, can go a long way.