Interview

Craig Nattress: Unique and enriching experiences

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May 6, 2020

Nattress + Company is a luxury trip planning company, boutique in size but with an amazing depth of knowledge and experience.

It is their philosophy that the best travel experiences come from the seeds of our own imagination and not from catalogues, or the back pages of travel magazines.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My introduction into the travel industry was as a guide, which is the travel industry’s equivalent of starting off in the mail room.  

Over the years I worked as a Mountain Bike Guide in Whistler, an Expedition Leader in the Arctic and Antarctic and also spent many years guiding hiking and biking trips around the globe for luxury outfitter Butterfield & Robinson.

As an avid skier, hiker, biker and sailor, I find that working in the luxury travel space allows me to take the passions that I have in life and apply them to my business and to the experiences that we ultimately create for our clients.  

I often pretend that I have a job just like anyone else, but let’s face it… that’s a lie. I’m very fortunate to have stumbled upon a career that I absolutely love, usually surrounded by other like-minded and fortunate people.

Aletsch Glacier, Fieschertal, Switzerland

Tell us a bit about your company

Nattress + Company is a very small ‘boutique’ travel consultancy.  

Although we work with families, couples and individuals, the business has been leaning more towards consulting for larger travel brands in order to help them create a unique and lasting travel experience for their audience.  

The key for us is that we take a very personalised and tailored approach to travel, ensuring that nothing feels ‘replicated’ or ‘contrived’.  

Taking a boutique approach to even the largest client moves the experience away from the ‘mass-clusive’, delivering experiences which are truly unique and enriching for each and every traveller.

Describe a typical working day for you

When I’m not travelling, a typical workday for me would tend to involve some form of outdoor pursuit.  

Creativity and passion require fuel, and my fuel is found outside.  This may be something as exciting as skiing or paddling but could just as easily be a walk in the forest.

From here, my day is not all that special or complicated, but it is always fun, usually at the drawing board with a few new trip ideas for my clients.

Gobabeb, Namibia

What does luxury mean to you these days? Has this changed?

Well, I think it’s commonly understood by this point that luxury today is really about executing an experience which is enriching and unique, rather than about thread count and stars on the door.  

They are not looking to spend the majority of their time in a bubble of opulent comfort, gazing out with curiosity at the world as it scrolls by.  Fewer and fewer travellers want to skim the surface.

Instead, they want some immersion and the ability to build connections to a place and its people.   They want their lives to be enriched through an experience.  

This becomes increasingly more challenging as more and more travellers travel with this sensibility, but this is driving players in the industry to come up with more creative and honest experiences to share with their guests.

So yes, it has slowly changed and evolved. The real challenge now is sustainability, both ecologically and culturally.  

How have your clients’ needs changed in the last few years?

Each client is unique, as are their changing needs. The only thing that hasn’t changed is their need to feel special and their desire to have their lives enriched through travel.  

If I had to choose one change that I have seen across the board, it’s the need for more personalised experiences which are more visceral than what they previously hungered for.

Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Greece

How has technology changed your business?

I consider myself quite analogue, bordering on luddite.  My business will always be driven by passion, by personal exploration and by getting out there in person and experiencing the world first-hand.  

My business has also been driven by personal relationships, both with clients and with partners on the ground. This will never change.

Today’s digital technology allows me to be anywhere at any time, which certainly makes possible today what could only be dreamed of 20 years ago, but what I do is not digitally scalable, and I like it that way.  We are a relationship-driven business.

What has luxury travel taught you?

As with beauty, luxury is in the eye of the beholder and I have learned that there is ‘luxury’ everywhere. If you know where to look, you often just need the right people to help.  

Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico

What excites you about the travel industry?

New experiences drive me and there seem to be few industries better equipped to deliver.  This is the only industry that I know of where you can pretty much do anything you can dream of.  

We can go to the depths of the oceans and to the summits of the highest peaks.  We can learn how to cook or make wine with the best in the business, or we can travel into space…like, actually into outer space!

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

I suppose the one thing that I find myself explaining to people is that working in luxury travel does not mean that I’m ‘fancy’ or ‘snobbish’ when it comes to travel.  

Authentic experiences drive me, and these are just as likely to be found eating at a stall in Bangkok as they are from a Michelin 3-star in the Alps.

I am exceedingly particular, but people often misunderstand what that means. I suppose I’d like people to understand that I am constantly on the lookout for real and enriching experiences for me and for my clients, more than I’m on the hunt for that next shiny object.  

Perhaps this is what makes attending TFest so appealing, as I’ll be able to spend the week with many people who truly understand that.

Khowarib, Namibia

What do you value most when you travel?

I value the connections that I’m able to make to a new place, and that almost always comes down to the people I meet.  

Certainly, I love a great hotel or a truly fabulous meal, but at the end of the day the stories that I come home to tell typically involve the interesting and endearing characters that I am fortunate enough to cross paths with.

The people are what bring a place to life for me.

How do you make sustainable choices in your work/life?

I have two wonderful, young kids.  Every choice that I make is made with them and their futures in mind.

That may seem like a very simple and obvious answer, but at the end of the day we have to pay forward as best we can and hope that this will teach our children to do the same.  Only everything is riding on it.

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