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CREATING WORLD CLASS EXPERIENCES BEYOND LIMITS WITH JOHN SUTHERLAND
Written By: Karen Hockney
When it comes to making bucket list dreams and experiences come true, John Sutherland is the man A list celebrities, millionaire businessmen and VIPs have on speed dial.
Whether your heart’s desire is to ski down a black run alongside a world champion, play chess with Garry Kasparov, brainstorm with leading business magnates at Richard Branson’s Necker Island, or watch spellbound as Andrea Bocelli serenades you at a private concert in his own home before joining you for dinner, John can make it happen.
The Asia based travel and lifestyle consultant has built a lucrative business out of turning the hopes and dreams of HNW individuals into a reality. Along with partners including the Aman hotel group and amfAR as well as international banks, charities and private jet brands, he specialises in delivering unique and luxe one-off events in some of the world’s most exclusive destinations.
So how exactly did a Scots-born music promoter make the shift from travelling around Europe running stadium tours for Celtic rockers Runrig to delivering bespoke and unique once-in-a-lifetime experiences in far flung corners of the globe?
John takes up the story. “I worked in the music industry in Scotland promoting my own shows and toured all over Europe for three years with Runrig, who were at the time the most famous Celtic rock band in Scotland.
John delivers bespoke and unique once-in-a-lifetime experiences in far flung corners of the globe
“I ran their merchandising business and accompanied them on gigs at stadiums where they supported Rod Stewart, U2 and The Rolling Stones.
“It was a great ride but in 2000, I started to feel very unsettled and decided to travel to Asia for a few months. I landed in Jakarta and was immediately offered a job in financial services, which I accepted. That was 20 years ago and I never looked back. I went for three months and never went home!”
When a friend asked John to join them in starting up a new luxury travel venture in Asia in 2009, he decided it was time for a change and took the concept and ran with it, creating unique high-end travel adventures for discerning clients.
John once organised for Andrea Bocelli to serenade clients at a private concert in his own home
He reels off some of his most memorable successes; castaway style trips to Rang Noi, a privately owned island in Phuket, supercar tours in Ferraris and McLarens encompassing Michelin-starred stopovers in the Black Forest and Lake Como, a private Patagonia glacier cruise, African helicopter safaris, Formula 1 high jinks in Iceland and, last but not least, a round of golf at the world’s most legendary club, Pebble Beach in California.
“One client of mine, a junior chess champion, lives in Portugal,” he elaborates. “He called me up to ask if I could organise something chess-related for him so I arranged for Garry Kasparov to fly from New York to Lisbon and spend a couple of days playing chess with the client, which he loved.
“We had an Indian party who were up in the Himalayas looking for snow leopards. They hadn’t found any and came to us asking if we could help them find some. Snow leopards are very elusive but I talked to National Geographic’s Steve Winter, one of the world’s leading big cat photographers, and asked him the best way to do this.
John has even managed snow leopard sightings for clients in the Himalayas (Credit: Steve Winter)
“He put me in touch with his contact and I got the trackers out there a week in advance of the client’s arrival to find the best observation spots. The outcome was that on the second day of their trip, they saw a snow leopard. The day after, they spotted one that had just made a kill. They ended up enjoying multiple sightings over the course of a 10 day trip and they were ecstatic. I was delighted too. I try to do everything I can to make it work out and that’s how I get my satisfaction.”
Is there nothing that John can’t pull off? “I have a client who would like me to source tickets to attend Vogue’s Met Gala in New York,’ he confides. ‘Anna Wintour personally selects the guests herself. I have lots of good connections and that is a situation that I’m working hard to make happen right now but there are times when it can be difficult to deliver.”
I’m intrigued to hear how John has managed to assemble such a stellar contacts book but he assures me there’s no mysterious secret – it’s simply down to good, old fashioned hard work.
Ever fancied participating in a road rally?
“When I started out, I felt the key to success was to identify the best people with proven track records who could come up with the goods in the countries I wanted to work in. I spent a lot of time researching the right people to work with in each destination before I started sending clients to these places. You need good partners and I’m a great believer in collaboration. I’m lucky enough to work with some really good people.”
Given his extensive budget-busting travels, which region does he rate as a world beating destination?
“New Zealand is fabulous,” he enthuses. “I’ve sent a lot of clients on helicopter trips over their mountain ranges. And Rang Noi, a private island off the coast of Phuket, is stunning.”
John’s typical clientele include UHNWIs, celebrities and business leaders from varying age groups, the majority of whom want to do things they might have dreamed of when they were children and often, they will take their requests to John.
“They wait until they have reached a point in their lives where they can afford to take their families away to share it with them,” he reveals. “I always think if you can stir people’s emotions and make them laugh or cry, you have done your job, and they’ll never forget that.
“This sector of the population can stay in 7 star hotels and are used to an enormously high level of luxury, but the concept of luxury has a totally different meaning for them.”
With a business built largely on word of mouth, John cites creativity and patience as the key qualities to longevity and success.
John turns the hopes and dreams of HNW individuals into a reality
“It takes longer to build your business when you are doing it purely on recommendation. You have to be creative. And we also have to wait for the borders to reopen in 2021 before we can really move forward.
“In the next year, I will continue to work on developing Rang Noi in Phuket, which has two eight-bedroom villas and an amphitheater in the garden, which would be an amazing venue for live acts. I’m looking forward to getting international artists on that island. It’s discreet, private and a high net worth idea of paradise.
“I’m also developing a tourism drive in Asia with sustainability and the ability to empower local communities at its heart. And I’m planning an annual event with amfAR in Asia which will hopefully kick off in 2021. So I’m keeping busy!”
For more information, visit John's website here.
To begin with, I would like to take a minute to mention my friends and colleagues in our industry who have been in survival mode, ever since this virus kicked in and caused so much disruption globally. My sympathy goes out to them and to friends and colleagues who may have lost loved ones during this epidemic.
Having listened to countless webinars, podcasts and experts talk about the state of the travel industry, I'm tired of hearing about the 'new normal'. The plain truth is, nobody knows what that may be and human beings are resilient and if we look at history, it has shown us that as soon as a travel ban caused by an epidemic, or major event is lifted, people want to get on a plane and travel. At first, many will keep that to short haul flights and the signs already are that people are looking at private villa options for their families and in some cases, private islands. Time will tell!
Out of every crisis comes positivity and in early March, I had a call from a friend of mine who wanted to introduce me to someone who was launching a new travel company. He was looking for some advice on what to do under the present conditions and would I be willing to be involved. My first thoughts were, 'this is a challenging time to launch a new company, I want to hear more'! After an email introduction and telephone call with the founder of the company, I was immediately taken by the passion he exuded for his cause and how he wanted to further develop sustainability through low season travel and help the tourism industry rebound from this terrible virus. What really took me by surprise was that he wanted to give 50% of the booking profits to worthy, deserving causes around the world.
After further discussions, I was invited to come on board as a director of the company, to assist in developing the business, which I have graciously accepted.
The founder is Ged Brown and his company is called 'Low Season Traveller' and it is the only company in the world currently focusing on sustainable, low season travel. Due to the phenomenal interest from the industry, I'm pleased to say that the company will launch on June 18th 2020.
Over the past few months Ged has been busy recording informative podcasts with interesting people from all sorts of destinations, which have already had over 10,000 downloads. If you are interested in finding out more, feel listen to some of them via this link https://lowseasontraveller.libsyn.com/
Low Season Traveller works closely with the World Tourism Association For Culture and Heritage and has organised a series of webinars which you may find of interest. The first episodes featured Dr David Beirman of UTS who is the world's leading authority on crisis management and recovery, Chris Flynn speaking about what we have learnt from past crises like SARS, GFC etc, as well as more leading figures in the travel industry. To register for upcoming webinars, please follow this link -https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5106409482661177868
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Members of The Private Suite don’t wait in crowded lines because private TSA screening is done right in our building. Members don’t walk down long crowded concourses, or line up at ticket counters and boarding gates. They don’t deal with baggage.
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Due to our valued partnership with the 'Private Suite' we are able to offer a 50% discount to our clients who would like to try this wonderful experience, for a limited time only. Please email for details.
For information on 'The Private Suite' please go to link https://vimeo.com/245304886
For pricing information https://theprivatesuite.com/membership/
In early January I had the pleasure of attending Thailand Yacht Show in Phuket https://www.thailandyachtshow.com/ which I have to say was a very well run show, featuring some wonderful events and of course, super yachts.
Perhaps one of the most interesting events I attended was on Rang Noi Island, a stunning private island which is located just a few kilometers from Phuket Roayal Marina and only a ten minute boat ride away. Apart from the wonderful hospitality shown by the island owners, the excellent musical trade off's by a very talented violinist and accompanying sax player at the closing party were highlights and the incredible fireworks display topped off the night perfectly!
You can find more information about the island on my web site and I am already booking my place for next years show.
(Below, a super yacht moored just off Rang Noi Island as the sun was setting).
A while back I launched 'Movie Theme Vacations', which created a lot of attention among the media and our clients alike. Some of the themes we have had requests for are 'Frozen', 'Top Gun', 'The Game' but my favourite is 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'.
One client recently asked us to create a 'Bucket List' experience, similar to a scene from the movie in the Himalayan mountains in search of the elusive 'ghost cat', the stunningly beautiful 'Snow Leopard, as it is better known.
The image above conjures up memories of the scene where Walter, (Ben Stiller) tries to track down Sean Penn in the Himalayan Mountains, where he is trying film the elusive cat.
Our clients spent several days on the mountain tracking and filming Snow Leopards. We arranged for some of the best trackers in the area to alert our team in advance for sightings, to give our clients the best chance to fulfill their passion to find and film these exquisite animals.
I'm delighted to report that our clients were elated, as they managed to spot a snow leopard on day 2, just after making a kill. There were more sightings over the next three days and it's very rewarding when you can plan and arrange an experience like this that can change peoples lives.
I'm pleased to announce that we can now offer you the opportunity to stay and play at the world's most iconic golf destination, Pebble Beach! Our guests can enjoy the award winning hospitality and amazing golf on offer and to book your accommodation and t-time all you have to do is send us an email.
Pebble Beach has hosted the world's greatest golfers and is a 'must play' for serious golf enthusiasts.
More information available here http://www.johnbsutherland.com/pebble-beachreg.html
Every year I receive requests to arrange to see Andrea Bocelli perform and no better than to watch him in his home town of Lajatico in Tuscany. Some of my dear clients missed him last year but were determined to catch him in 2016 and judging by their feedback, they were not disappointed.
With the help of Andrea Bocelli's team, we also managed to arrange for my guests to attend a dinner with Andrea and his esteemed guests at his private residence after the show, where he was entertaining special guests in aid of his Foundation.
A special thanks to all who participated and donated to this wonderful cause and I hope to welcome you back again next year.
Please see a letter of thanks from Mr & Mrs Bocelli
We are profoundly proud and glad to communicate that, thanks to the funds raised during the Teatro del Silenzio, we will be able to fully support one year of the ABF Water Truckproject. Two tanker trucks will circulate in the slum of Citè Soleil in Haiti every day, three times a day and 6 days a week, granting free access to potable water to more than 300.000 people, improving their health-hygiene conditions, reducing the transmission of infectious diseases and reducing deaths from dehydration in infants and elderly people.
Andrea and Veronica
Andrea Bocelli's wonderful new album 'Cinema' is out now!
There are not many words to describe this so best you just watch the video. These amazing guys operate out of Dubai and have just pulled off one of the greatest feats ever!
Before you ask, I did call them and ask if they would be happy to train some of my clients and take them up for a flight but at this moment in time the answer was that they can't yet but perhaps sometime in the future. We wait with baited breath!
Every week I get some very interesting requests from my partners and clients and each one represents a different challenge. This week I had a call from my partner in India, who has a client that wants to track and photograph one of the world's most elusive and rarest members of the cat family, the Snow Leopard! This is not the first time he has tried it and did not manage to find one last time round, so this has become a 'bucket list' affair!
These magnificent animals are in danger of being wiped out, as they are hunted for their deep, thick fur. An estimation of somewhere between 3,500 to 7000 are left roaming the wild. Mostly found in Central Asia in the rugged mountains around an altitude of 9,800 to 17,000 feet, this is not going to be an easy task!
They are normally active at dawn and dusk and snow leopards are rarely seen in the wild. Unlike other big cats, snow leopards are unable to roar. Solitary in nature, they pair only during the breeding season.
Currently, I'm in discussions with a world famous nature photographer to discuss plans for our mission in hand and look forward to sharing news with you on how this one gathers momentum!
This summer, Andrea Bocelli again headlines his anticipated concert in his home town of Lajatico. My clients who attended the event last year had a very special time and commented on how cool the whole Tuscany experience was in general. A special mention was regarding the visit to the Antinori winery. Here's a comment from one of my clients, 'Other than the concert, the best part of all of our experience would definitely be The Antinori wineries trip. The visuals and sensual assault was something: so deep, so unique - to see something like this is simply stunning, the family's restaurants, valleys, vineyards, castles, all of those felt like a fairytale'.
This is Andrea Bocelli's 10th anniversary for this event and it seems as popular as ever! Please visit my web page for Andrea Bocelli and you can download the full itinerary and cost for this amazing event.
From September 9th to the 15th, how would you like to spend time with Andrea Bocelli as your host and dine with him in his private residence? Not only that but David Foster and a host of other celebrities will be present, including 'The Band Perry', Reba McEntire, Ronnie Dunn and other 'A- List celebrities.
Please email me personally for more information on this truly unique opportunity at firstname.lastname@example.org
As would be expected, places are very limited!