What is it like jetting all over the world, curating incredible travel locations and experiences that excite some of the world’s biggest celebrities and wealthiest personalities? This pretty much sums up Cleo Anderson’s job.
Cleo Anderson is busy as always. The founder of The Anderson Media Group was recently declared the ‘Broadcast Media Host and Producer of the Year’ in the Influential Businesswoman Awards 2023, just as she wrapped up filming in St Barth – the latest location for her show on LUXE.TV, Wanderluxe with Cleo Anderson.
And she is not done. Her multiple roles as travel expert, PR guru, TV host and producer mean that she has to constantly be on the move in search of some of the most glamorous yet hidden locations in the world for her clients. Some of which are/have been Monte Carlo SBM; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ms Anderson is the ‘Luxury Travel Curator of the Everyone Wins Goodie Bag’ dished out to the top 25 Oscar nominees each year), and now, LUXE.TV.
We caught up with Cleo in between her travels to talk about her work and views on luxury travel, amongst other things.
In Conversation with Cleo Anderson begins now …
ALM: Why have you declared St Barth the ‘world’s most luxurious island?’
CA: St Barth is such an iconic location and has a long history of attracting those who love laid-back chic as well as the jet set – it really is a jewel of the French Caribbean. The island is lush with nature and beautiful beaches, but you also have fantastic shopping in Gustavia and some really wonderful iconic landmarks in terms of eating out and places to stay.
In the show (Wanderluxe with Cleo Anderson) we featured three stunning villas courtesy of Saint-Barth Paradise. I enjoyed dinner and drinks at Eden Rock, and I spent some amazing hours on some of the landmark beaches. Filming there really was a fantastic experience and I will no doubt visit again soon.
ALM: What, in your opinion, do you think luxury hospitality brands get wrong about what the 1% need in a vacation spot?
CA: I think the thing most people get wrong is what great customer service and attention to detail really is, because, for me, there are most definitely levels to it.
Often in hospitality, people think they are giving personal service by being polite – perhaps remembering your name – but they are not really seeing you or listening in any meaningful way. For me, what makes the difference is not just noticing a client or being polite, but actually acting on what you have noticed in a significant way.
One example of great customer service was during a recent visit to the Four Seasons Sultanahmet in Istanbul. I really couldn’t decide between sorbet or chocolate for dessert during a meal. I chose the sorbet and after I finished my meal, I realised that I was still craving chocolate. I playfully lamented my decision to my wonderfully attentive server and, to my surprise, he returned with a couple of pieces of gourmet chocolate – on the house. It is these personalised touches that truly make an experience special and memorable, and making a client feel seen where many servers would have simply sympathised politely and brought me my bill. That feeling of really feeling ‘seen’ and catered to is what I think the 1% is looking for.
ALM: What are some emerging trends in luxury travel that should be talked about more?
CA: Obviously artificial intelligence (AI) is a big conversation right now: in terms of luxury travel, that equates to more detailed hotel booking where you can customise room size and check-in times, for example. Face recognition and voice recognition at airports for added security will become more prevalent, I believe. I also feel that luxury trains will become more popular – this is something that I’m really interested in, and I’m currently planning a couple of epic train trips in both Europe and North America. I’m looking forward to these unique experiences.
ALM: What, so far, are your favourite vacation spots and why?
CA: Athens is a favourite — I really enjoy places that have a sense of history to immerse myself in, and Athens has historical landmarks that you can see from almost every vantage point in the city. Juxtaposed with that you have the Athens Riviera. It’s very close to the city centre but is also a stunning beach destination that many don’t really know about.
I loved Miami, it has a South American vibe in terms of the music, food, colours, and beautiful weather. It is a really fun spot to go to with a group of friends.
Borneo was a wonderful destination to explore, as I am big on nature and wildlife. Tracking in the rainforest and searching for Orangutans was really beautiful.
The Maldives is another favourite spot. I love being surrounded by water, and the colour of the Indian Ocean is magnificent. I loved being in an overwater bungalow: at night you can feel the bungalow swaying in the water. Being there feels decadent [because] you have space and time to deeply relax.
ALM: What are some vacation spots that are best visited alone in your opinion? Which ones are best visited in company with others?
CA: For me, when it comes to city breaks I actually enjoy doing them alone. You can do your own thing and discover museums and hidden gems on foot and at your own pace. Athens, Barcelona, Lisbon and Rome are all great for getaways like that. Then the party places, like Miami and Tokyo, are wonderful to do with company as your senses are heightened and there are just so many things to do.
ALM: What unusual luxury spots have you been to?
CA: Cappadocia in Turkey. The terrain is so unique and special and the hotel was a cave-like haven with views of hot air balloons floating up into the sky in the mornings.
ALM: What do you look out for when searching for a place to stay?
If I can get an iconic view that reflects the place I am in, that’s always a plus. If that is not a possibility, I love an elegant room. I usually like a mixture of contemporary and traditional furnishings and gorgeous interior design. Customer service is also really important to me, and I will always look at the reviews to see how other travellers have been treated by staff.
ALM: What are some challenges you’ve faced in your travels? What did you do about them?
CA: I have to be honest – my travel experiences are typically great. I did, however, face a challenge with retrieving luggage when I arrived in St Barth’s earlier this year and it was the first time I have ever lost my luggage! Thankfully, the staff at the hotel where I was staying went above and beyond to track my luggage down and ensured that I received it a day later. There had been an issue at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
ALM: According to the news, you’ve put together unique travel destinations for top Oscar nominees. What do you look out for when making these selections?
CA: I’m definitely looking for something glamorous and unique. We have worked with lighthouses that have been transformed into hotels, for example, and we definitely have the glamour factor this coming year with a selection of high-end luxury villas in St Barth. I also tend to look at locations; what are the locations that perhaps Oscar nominees might want to visit? This year, aside from St Barth, we have also been looking at Sri Lanka and Berlin.
This past year we had a client with an ultra-modern compound in the middle of nowhere (in Dunrobin, Canada), which was a fantastic addition to the gift bag.
ALM: What is the one thing/principle you’ve applied over and over again that has helped to keep you successful in your line of work?
CA: Remaining positive and expecting good things. The power of positive expectation is key. I believe in asking for what you want and expecting that you will attract the right people to help you with that mission. Resilience is a must in business too: you will always find blocks in the road, but it’s about pushing past them and finding another way.
ALM: What would you like to see more in Africa to make it a top travel destination?
CA: I think that more unique luxury hotels in unique places that showcase the beauty that Africa has would be fantastic.
ALM: What do you think non-Africans need to experience here on the continent to make Africa a top travel destination?
I think that non-Africans have to be made more aware of the beautiful things to see throughout Africa, and the experiences that maybe they are not yet aware of. African countries that have got this really right in terms of branding are Kenya, with their safari experiences; Namibia, with its stunning desert; and, Egypt with its obviously iconic pyramids. Ensuring that other African spots showcase what they have may come from a more focused PR and marketing push, for example, with the visuals being at the centre of everything. With social media tools like Instagram, everything is more visual these days and people can’t be aware of something they know nothing about. More awareness of what to see and do would be great.
‘In Conversation with’ by ASPIRE Luxury Magazine celebrates stars, influencers, celebrities and public figures, shining a spotlight on their lives and the incredible stories they have to share.