Paradise found

Jetting off to sunnier, more exotic climes and staying in the lap of luxury is one of life’s ultimate pleasures – and no one knows that more than Natasha Griffin, the founder of Simply Luxury Escapes. Eileen Leahy caught up with the successful business entrepreneur at her new retail premises on London Road to discover more about her high-end holidays business which specialises in long-haul destinations including the Caribbean, Maldives, Mauritius and Africa…


There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving at a far-flung hotel you’ve spent a lot of money on, and hours flying to, only to discover it’s not what you’d hoped it would be. The bedroom might be poky instead of palatial, the pool noisy and overcrowded, the staff disgruntled and the food substandard. In short, nothing like the dream destination you bought online. But thankfully with Simply Luxury Escapes this type of scenario doesn’t happen as the company, which was set up 15 years ago by Natasha Griffin, prides itself on having expert knowledge of the many destinations it sends its clients to, with incredible attention to detail and transparency coming as standard.

Natasha initially launched her business as Simply Caribbean Luxury Holidays given her wealth of experience travelling to this part of the world. Over the years this has proved to be such a successful endeavour that Natasha, and her small team, now offer luxury bespoke trips all over the world including The Maldives, Mauritius, Africa, Asia and Europe.

We are meeting in her smart new Simply Luxury Escapes premises which are located on the corner of London Road and Tunbridge Wells High Street. It is the first time Natasha has had a customer-facing office and she is excited at the prospect of it opening later this month.

“When I first started the business I worked in a garden office at my home in Plaxtol, but as we expanded and took on more staff we then moved to a bigger barn in the village and we were there for ten years. Now having somewhere people can pop in and have a chat is very exciting!”

Natasha adds that Simply Caribbean Luxury Holidays is still very much a driving force of the business, specialising in both classic Caribbean destinations such as Antigua, Barbados and St Lucia, and also the smaller islands of St Kitts & Nevis, Grenada and St Vincent & the Grenadines.

“We know the Caribbean and its luxury destinations really well which is why we can confidently create bespoke trips for individual clients. But it’s also exciting to be venturing into other destinations which over the last few years we have got to know really well. Our aim is always to find a perfect holiday that suits everyone we work with,” explains Natasha.

“Everyone in the team has a passion for travel and wants to get the right destination for our clients. We will have a small expert team operating from our new offices in Tunbridge Wells, and we have destination experts working remotely from Manchester and Hertfordshire. The online side of our business is very successful and we have clients from all over the country but to now have this office means we can attract more customers from this area.”

Natasha adds that she and the team take real pride in getting to know their clients and their individual needs. This could be from ensuring a hotel has interconnecting rooms for a young family, or state of the art spa facilities for those looking to pamper themselves. Or it could be a comprehensive offering of adventurous activities for thrill seekers or the opportunity to discover more about the area’s rich culture and heritage courtesy of expert guides. Whatever the requirement, Natasha and her team will make it happen.

“We put every effort into making your dream holiday a reality,” smiles Natasha.

And as for the reason Natasha started her own travel business? Well, she says that it happened when she ended up creating a tailormade holiday for her own family.

“I had just had my fourth child and my husband and I wanted to go away with our kids. But I got so frustrated that there wasn’t anything out there if you had more than two kids! We didn’t fit the traditional mould so I ended up sourcing everything. I thought to myself well if I can do this for me I can do it for others.”

Natasha admits that she had a head start on things having travelled extensively with her former job in the City.

“I was working on public offerings at Morgan Stanley for 15 years so working at that level already gave me an eye for detail, perfection and quality. But I believe these are something that should be available to all – not just for the people spending big money. When I started my business I was determined to give the same level of service, whatever people were spending.”

Natasha explains that Simply Luxury Escapes isn’t a travel agent but a tour operator.

“When you’re talking to an online travel agent many are after a sale – they’re on commission, so travellers’ expectation are sometimes not met. But with our service it’s about ensuring people’s expectations are met and exceeded – and that’s where we differ.”

We realise if someone is spending hard earned money on a two-week luxury memory-making trip then it has to be spot on.

“One of our big philosophies, in addition to incisive knowledge and details, is we treat people the way we wish to be treated. When you’re talking to travel agents online or on the end of the phone most are after a sale – they’re on commission so they’ll tell you what you want to hear. But with our service it’s about getting people’s expectations right – and that’s where we differ.”

Natasha adds that her team are different to anything else on the high street when it comes to travel.

“The hotels we work with are all four star and above. And although we may be Simply Luxury Escapes it doesn’t mean that luxury is all about price, it’s about the service we’re offering too – and that’s really big for us. The clients aren’t paying any more for that, they are getting it as a prerequisite because that’s what we do… we deliver an outstanding service.”

It’s clear this is a winning formula as Natasha says that their client retention is very high.

“Another difference with the way we do business is that we get to know our clients incredibly well over the years. I don’t need to send a list of 10 hotels to someone as we know what works well for them.

“We have a very personal approach and although we are not a volume operator we will still send over 1000 people a year on holiday. And when they return and want to book with us again we remember what they like. In tour operating there’s a lot of regulation being government bonding with ATOL, so we have to make sure our clients’ holidays are right from the start.”

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