A Q&A with Sujata Rama from Abercrombie & Kent
What inspired you to join Abercrombie & Kent and when?
I joined Abercrombie & Kent in Egypt in 1984 as a travel manager and looked after inbound Australian travellers. At the time, I was living in Cairo, Egypt, and was inspired by the reputation Abercrombie & Kent had established in North Africa. I was also aware of the company’s history in East Africa, where founder Geoffrey Kent had essentially invented experiential and sustainable travel with the first luxury tented photographic safaris. I wanted to play a part in delivering that kind of travel experience and message.
What is the philosophy behind Abercrombie & Kent?
Kent, who is still our chairman and CEO, founded Abercrombie & Kent with his parents in East Africa in 1962. The same core values the Kent family delivered right from the beginning — pioneering, courageous, trustworthy, integrity, stylish and welcoming — are still the Abercrombie & Kent values today. From the outset, Kent believed in the transformational power of travel. Kent once said, “Travel puts people in touch with people, cultures in touch with cultures, and it ultimately leads to understanding those who come from entirely different backgrounds. I truly believe that if more people travelled, there would be less conflict in the world.” I couldn’t agree more.
Please share a few of the unique experiences you offer.
A true luxury safari in southern Africa or East Africa, where it all began for Abercrombie & Kent, is a favourite and one of our most popular adventure holidays. The quality of camps and lodges has to be experienced to be believed and the experience of being out in the vast African landscape, with literally millions of your fellow creatures, is like nothing else on Earth.
Please share the latest philanthropy project you are working on.
If travel is about transformation, then Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP) is about transforming travel toward greater equity and sustainability. AKP is dedicated to positively impacting lives and livelihoods in the communities where our guests travel. We work with partner communities on more than 40 education, healthcare, conservation and enterprise development projects in 20 countries, most of them in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We are equally committed to ensuring guests learn about our philanthropic investments as an integral part of their travel experience. Our Australian office just shipped a container of nearly 400 bikes to Tanzania where they will be used to open a bike shop in the nearest town to the Ngorongoro Crater, training and employing five women from the local community who will not only learn how to repair and maintain bikes but also to run a small business and foster other community enterprise.
Please share one of your favourite travel memories.
Too many to name. Long afternoons on a luxury houseboat in the lazy backwaters of Kerala in Southern India are close to the top of my list.
While I know it’s glib to say my favourite memory is my next trip, I’m genuinely excited about leading an upcoming small-group journey to the West African nations of Ghana, Togo and Benin. Having travelled extensively in North, southern and East Africa, this will be my first time in the vibrant West of the continent. Having heard the boasts of several colleagues who have already travelled to this part of the world, I can’t wait.
What are the three most important things to pack for a successful adventure holiday?
An open mind, an open heart and two pairs of comfortable shoes.
What’s next for Abercrombie & Kent?
From our beginnings on safari in East Africa, we have grown to become a global network of 56 offices and more than 2500 travel experts on the ground around the world. We’re always looking for new experiences, local insights and local encounters that ensure our travellers can really get under the skin of a destination, learn more about the world and often more about themselves at the same time.
I like to think we’ve always been attuned to the motivations of great travellers, believing that why people travel is as important as where and when and how they travel.
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