A biotech engineer turned advertiser turned travel designer, Shanam’s professional life has been a journey in itself. She claims to have been bitten by the famed travel bug in her childhood and insists that the effect is everlasting. Whether it’s personal or for work, Shanam enjoys every part of the travel process as much as the destination, right from planning ‘what-to-pack’ to talking about the trip months after she returns. For Shanam, the most fascinating aspect of travel is the people whom she meets on the go, be it at an airport lounge, in professional meetings or on a roller-coaster ride.
How did you fall in love with travelling and start working within the industry ?
There’s a gap of many years in between me falling in love with travel to actually joining the travel industry. The love affair started at the age of 3 when I visited Hong Kong and Bangkok on a family trip and then, after a long courtship period lasting many, many years, I made my relationship with travel official by joining the family travel business as a travel designer. And I am quite sure, this one’s for eternity.
What kind of traveller are you?
I’m an outright luxury lover. Right from the time I set foot in that warm, beautiful lobby to gorgeous views from my room; from a hot breakfast and well-made coffee to custom comfort linens, I love it all. However, I prefer all these things with a soul of consciousness.
I am a true traveller at heart, so I’m equally excited when going with the flow, making new friends in quaint local cafes, exploring smaller towns, and embracing unheard-of experiences.
Tell us about one of your most memorable trips/travel moments.
I will mention two because the competition is very strong.
- My Encounter with Africa: Africa was a place that I was used to watching only on Discovery and National Geographic. When I was first in the middle of the wilderness at the Parks, it was like the pictures in my imagination were coming to life. From the gorgeous sunsets that the parks greet you with to up-close encounters with wildlife at Maasai Mara and Aquila, there’s nothing about it I will ever forget
- Argentina: Contrary to my meeting with Africa, I did not know what to expect when visiting Argentina. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised! The magnificent, yet raw view of the Andes against the glacial blue waters of the sea, the glacier walks (which weren’t as easy as they looked) and the most beautiful performance shows I’ve ever witnessed – it was all magical. There are so many experiences to cherish from that trip.
What lessons have you learnt from your experience during COVID?
Quite a few. Personally, I learnt not to take anything for granted. The freedom we have, the breaths we take, the love for our family and friends, the little opportunities we are given in our daily lives, even the ability to shop freely without a worry – they are all blessings that we should cherish.
Professionally, I learnt how impactful human connections are. Also, an important learning is that “travel is now essential”. The lockdowns have brought it to light how strong the desire to travel is among people. So, we should find new ways to engage them and to connect with them to make their travel dreams come true.
Most importantly, I learnt how important it is to restore balance in the world. Even while travelling or making travel plans, we should all be mindful of its impact, and work on strategies to make it sustainable.
How confident are you that the travel and tourism industry in Africa will survive & prosper over the next 2-3 years?
I am confident tourism to Africa/South Africa will prosper in the coming years. This is because the destination offers a harmonious balance of city life, nature, food, wine, adventure and wellness, all wrapped up in the typical African culture.
What do we need to do to make sure that happens?
I think the most important thing is to generate confidence in people that it is safe to travel to Africa. And this begins right at the point of arrival – from the airport and immigration experience to the experience provided by hotels and other travel suppliers.
People should be well-informed regarding the kind of sanitisation and social distancing measures that are in place and how they are being strictly implemented. We have seen this strategy working for destinations like Dubai and the Maldives already.
Based on the five senses and thinking about travelling what do you…
- Like to see: A freshly-made bed in my hotel room.
- Like to taste: A creamy ice-cream from a local shop
- Like to feel: The warmth of shower after a long day of exploration
- Like to hear: The sound of wildlife at a National Park
- Like to smell: The aroma of luxurious spas
Suggestions on resources for other travel and tourism stakeholders. Any websites, publications, podcasts, thought leaders you can recommend or newsletters we should sign up to?
Conde Nast Traveller India
Lastly, what do you love about Africa Travel Week?
I personally find a lot of value in attending Africa Travel Week. It’s a brilliant platform to network with world-class suppliers and to get to know the people from various tourism boards. These interactions, in turn, help us to design bespoke itineraries, keeping in mind all the preferences of our clients.
Due to the fact that the information found on the internet can sometimes be deceptive, the self-planned extensions help us to access in-depth knowledge about the products and figure out what-to-expect when we send our clients.
Also, while webinars/Zoom calls/Google Meet helped us to stay updated even during the pandemic, nothing can replace the knowledge that we get while meeting in person. Even people’s attention spans are different if we compare online with offline interactions. I strongly believe there’s more fruitful interaction when you have the product, people and presentation all in the same place.