60 Seconds with… Our CEO Richard Holt

“As a leading figure on the merits of Southern Africa as a top MICE destination, our Group CEO Richard shares his passion for Africa, business and what makes him tick, in an interview with UK based luxury incentive and events show InVoyage.”

“As a leading figure on the merits of Southern Africa as a top MICE destination, our Group CEO Richard shares his passion for Africa, business and what makes him tick, in an interview with UK based luxury incentive and events show InVoyage.”

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As a leading figure on the merits of Destination Southern Africa and the exclusive Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events industry, our Group CEO Richard recently had a published Q and A interview with UK based luxury incentive and events show InVoyage.

To find out more about Richards passion for Africa, his business and insights into what makes him tick read the full article below.

Richard as a quick introduction can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your business

I’m originally from the UK but been in Cape Town and South Africa now for over 15 years. I initially trained and worked in the sports & leisure and hospitality industry before embarking on 20 years of self-employment, establishing, managing and consulting to several successful businesses.

Since 2004 I have been joint-owner and group CEO of Cape Town based Concepts Collection. We are an exclusive events and travel-based destination management company, creating corporate and private experiences across Southern Africa for our global client base. My real passion is building brands and relationships that “think outside the norm” to deliver customer excellence.

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My love affair with Africa started in mid-1990’s and I still love travelling across the continent in search of new locations and experiences to promote to the world. Apparently, I’m rarely seen travelling without my golf clubs, and my team describes me as an enthusiastic wine amateur, music lover, foodie and our “go to man” on all things luxury.

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Brand promise…
I’m a real believer that a business takes on the personality of its’ owners. I was born and brought up in the North of England in the 60’s where you were taught to speak the truth and not bullshit people. These are core values that run deeply through our business. Yes – we speak the right marketing speak and promise boutique and bespoke events, exclusivity, innovation and creativity – but we also consistently deliver what we promise with an authenticity and pride and in what we do and a respect for clients and the relationships we build across our industry.

Thankfully my business partner (and wife) has a different personality which complements our business. She manages our team with that German efficiency and an eye for every detail which you need in this industry.

What’s trending in 2019?
In the luxury market we are definitely seeing international clients wanting more personalisation and a unique signature to their event experience, rather than the clichéd African roll-outs.

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The active and adventure experience is also coming to the fore in more of our incentives and special conferences. In a few weeks’ time we are hosting 300 Scandinavians – who in between some conferencing will be learning to surf, shark cage diving, ziplining, mountain biking and sand dune bashing all over the Western Cape.

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Luxury defined in 140 characters
That moment when the combination of place, setting, people, service and ambiance are all in sync to create a lasting experience. In Africa there can be so many of these moments.

Townhouse or treehouse?
I can’t move to Africa and not say treehouse. Some of our safari lodges are literally treehouses, yet right up there with the best boutique hotels in the world. I have finally accepted I’m a nature boy at heart, it energises me, makes me alive and touches my soul. That doesn’t mean I don’t love a few nights in a stylish hotel in a European city like Venice, Barcelona or Paris.

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The bucket list
Gorilla trekking on the Rwanda/Uganda border is at the very top of my list. Then the landscapes and visual impressions of Ethiopia and Madagascar and a wine and gastronomy tour of Chile and Peru.

Last meal
The Potluck Club in Cape Town. Located on the top floor of a silo in the old industrial part of the city, it has 360-degree views of Table Mountain, the harbour and the ocean. It’s cool, casual and trendy and delivers some of the best fine dining, tapas style dishes.

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Old fave
The Four Seasons Hotel in Florence every time. Wonderful sense of history, space and serenity. You walk through the hotel gardens and are right in the heart of the city and the Duomo. I also love the boutique hotels of Constance Hotels and Resorts and in particular their exclusive Mauritius property Prince Maurice. That’s always my “go to” place for down time after a hectic season.

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Proud moment
With the benefit of hindsight, I think having the courage to look inward at my life and career 20 years ago. Realising I wasn’t happy and needed to make a change was a huge moment. Then uprooting and following a kind of very vague plan into Africa was crazy to everyone around me, but I’m proud I followed my heart at the time and not my head or my bank balance.  As a result, starting the events and travel business from scratch in a foreign land and now seeing where it’s grown to today makes us all very proud.

Bragging rights
Even though I hated it, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro would be right up there for both the mental and physical challenge.

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It’s all in the detail…
Our famous and very detailed “on the day” project timesheets have become legendary with the suppliers and industry partners working on our events. They outline everything down to the minutest detail and last nano second. Nothing is left to chance but the client never sees it. Our equally famous “rescue kits” at events cover most eventualities on the day too and always go down well with clients and their guests.

What inspires you?
Travelling in general and just taking in new landscapes, people and cultures, it just seems to reveal a different energy and imagination in me. Travelling through Oman several years ago was one of the most inspiring trips ever in terms of scenery and people encounters.

Aperol or agua?
I’m surrounded by nine wine estates within 10 minutes’ walk from home and another 500 in the wider Cape winelands – so I have to say a South African wine. In my view we are making some world class Chenin Blanc and white blends and at the moment a glass of the Mount Abora, Koggelbos Chenin from our Swartland region would be at the top of my list.

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Final word…
I wouldn’t change it for the world, it’s not an industry where I will sit back and count my huge financial wealth in retirement. But no one will be richer than me for the experiences, the places I have been and seen, the people I have met, and the memories gathered along the way.

To view this article on InVoyage | Click here