George Morgan-Grenville has been involved in travel and luxury travel for most of his life. After a long tenure at Abercrombie & Kent he ventured out on his own founding Red Savannah. Recently Morgan-Grenville was in New York and Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up to him.
ET: Tell us a bit about your background?
George Morgan-Grenville: My love of travel started at an early age when my father bought a 1911 Dutch estuary barge and converted into a delightful holiday retreat on which we sailed the rivers and canals of France every summer. There was nothing else like it in the 1960s when most of the other vessels were working barges. No day passed without an adventure of some sort and it was during these early years that I learned the importance of weaving key elements of local life into any experiential journey. After leaving Eton College, I attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and became a British Army officer in the Coldstream Guards where I served in London, Falkland Islands, Canada, Hong Kong & Australia. This was followed by a 21-year stint with the travel company, Abercrombie & Kent, starting as a Management Trainee and finishing as Group Managing Director. During this period I became the first westerner to travel by private train across central Asia and also accompanied HRH Prince of Wales on safari in Tanzania and trekking in the Himalayas.
ET: What led you to start Red Savannah?
George Morgan-Grenville: Even experiential travel is becoming commoditized in the race to leverage e-commerce. However, the sophisticated High Net Worth 21st century traveler needs a much more customized and esoteric approach. Our feeling was that real, authentic travel, was getting lost as the larger travel companies increasingly produced ever more glossy brochures (often simply portfolios of luxury hotels) to convince consumers they had the ability to fulfill their needs. By starting Red Savannah, we are able to provide a level of knowledge, understanding and customized service that meets the needs of affluent and sophisticated travelers.
ET: Please give us an overview of what Red Savannah offers?
George Morgan-Grenville: We have put together an extraordinarily experienced team and our mission is purely and simply to be seen as the leading providers of experiential travel. We are not interested in meaningless phraseology (eg. unique experiences!), fads or glitz. What does motivate us is knowledge, fascinating people with a story to tell, wonderfully memorable places to eat (whether it be a Bengali breakfast at Bomti’s or a traditional farmhouse breakfast in Bhutan) and of course, the most divine hotels irrespective of their ‘star’ rating.
ET: What would be some examples of special custom experiences you could put together?
George Morgan-Grenville: In Africa, we often suggest the use of specially adapted helicopters to reach the most unimaginably beautiful wilderness areas. Landing in remote areas far from civilization, it provides an extraordinary experience of seeing ancient rock art and interacting with tribesmen who have seldom seen westerners. In Botswana, we offer safaris on foot and by quad bike, with guests able to sleep under the stars on an ancient and mysterious granite island in the middle of the vast emptiness of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. In Nepal we have a 13-day trek into the Kingdom of Mustang (there are no roads) to meet the King for tea in his palace at Lo Manthang. The scenery is breath taking but 13 days on foot is enough for most people so we arrange a helicopter to fly guests out at the end, breakfasting on Annapurna en route.
ET: What differentiates Red Savannah from companies already doing high end travel?
George Morgan-Grenville: The incredible staff we employ (none of whom have less than 10 years of experience) and the combined ‘Black Book’ of contacts we each hold around the world. Every member of staff is also a shareholder in the business, which means the whole team is united and utterly dedicated to achieving perfection.
ET: Having gotten Red Savannah successfully launched, any tips for corporate CEOs who now want to do a start-up?
George Morgan-Grenville: Be able to articulate the business plan in less than 3 minutes. Recruit the best possible people – investors tend to back people and not plans. And never give up.
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