FLOCK has launched in London, curating unparalleled luxury travel experiences exclusively for private groups. Whether it’s a sunset in the Serengeti, a palatial dinner in Jaipur or behind the scenes at the Spanish Riding School, the FLOCK team tailor make travel itineraries for groups and discreetly manage them on the ground throughout each trip. We caught up with luxury travel veteran, founder Graham Alderman to find out more about his new venture…
Tell us about FLOCK and where the idea came from…
I’ve planned and hosted hundreds of luxury trips around the world for corporate groups as Owner and Managing Director of an incentive travel company. Putting together the perfect trip in the perfect location is something I’ve been doing for years and years and making sure that every single person enjoys every single minute is in my blood. So when I got asked by a client to run a private ultra-luxury celebratory trip for friends we ran it with our usual aplomb. The trip was a resounding success and I’ve since taken the same group away on separate occasions, with each trip outdoing the last, which is no mean feat! So the natural next step for me was to formally launch the private group offering with a fresh brand identity, FLOCK.
It felt like there was a space in the market for a company that curates nothing-is-impossible trips exclusively for groups and we knew that with our finely honed knowledge of that field and impeccable attention to detail, along with our vast personal onsite management experience, that we were the people to do it.
What are your clients’ priorities for a trip and how has that changed post-pandemic?
The desire for once-in-a-lifetime trips has never been greater – and that’s exactly the kind of trips we do, so in a way, it’s felt like the right time to launch FLOCK. Similarly, there’s also a craving to reconnect with close friends and family, marking all the milestones that have been missed over the last year, which again, is exactly what we do as a group travel specialist! The fact we travel, discreetly, with every client means we truly can take care of every last detail. From the moment guests leave home, to the moment they celebrate together in their very own paradise, they won’t have to worry about a thing!
What has changed is the hugely increased emphasis on safety, security, and hygiene. Private jets, fast-track security, airport lounges, priority boarding, chauffeur cars, and everything else that we associate with crowd control are now hugely sought after by all. The experience across every single part of the traveler’s journey is under scrutiny as we start traveling again.
Destination-wise, wilderness trips are high up the agenda. It’s the perfect time to do an unforgettable safari experience and enjoy the adventure, space, privacy, and exclusivity that we’re all craving right now.
There’s a wealth of luxury hotels and experiences out there, how do you decide which ones to include in your itineraries?
It starts and ends with the client and their guests. Each FLOCK escape is completely bespoke, so we begin by getting to know them and what they want to get out of a trip. Some clients want the whole group to be together throughout, others will request that some members fly out before others or that there are different meals or activities arranged for different guests. Once we have all the information we need, we go away and do the research before presenting a thoughtfully curated range of suggestions back to them.
There is no one size fits all, we run trips for groups of different sizes, cultures and generations. The most important thing to remember, integral to the success of any getaway, is that a group is made up of individuals, each with their respective quirks, wants and needs.
As well as the FLOCK team’s first-hand knowledge and experience, we have a network of trusted experts around the world who help us fine-tune every detail. We then do a full recce of each destination before final plans are confirmed with the client, allowing us to check, develop and improve every detail to make it the very best it can be for the group.
Tell us about one of your most memorable travel experiences?
There are moments in your life when it all stands still when nothing else matters apart from the moment you are in and being 8ft from an enormous silverback in the wild with nothing between you is one of those moments.
My final trip before the pandemic took hold was spending time with the gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda as part of a recce for a FLOCK proposal we were in the process of putting together. I arrived via private charter plane in Kigali, Rwanda, was swept through customs by VIP escort, and directed to a fleet of choppers. After a thrilling ride soaring over mountain vistas we descended into the aptly named Hotel One & Only Gorilla’s Nest. Surrounded by swaying eucalyptus, we made our way through our protected jungle home to a champagne and canape reception.
Nestled in the foothills of the Virunga Volcano Range we enjoyed an evening in the treehouse-style bar, where stiff drinks are served alongside captivating tales of conservation, history and primate-family-insight courtesy of the local gorilla doctor, (an expert, and then some). The stories continued long into a seasonal
After an impressive breakfast devoured almost silently, as nerves and excitement built, we headed out on foot under expert guard, lead trekkers carving a path with a machete through thick bamboo. Ploughing deep into the jungle we trod quietly closer to a gorilla family that our rangers knew intimately. On their command we froze, slack-jawed in awe to admire the spectacle of a Silverback playing with his young. The beauty of the gorillas is spellbinding – one hour of wonder followed with barely a breath exhaled, as we marveled at their immense majesty and power. He looked at me once, straight into my eyes and then he looked away and carried on. He was quite beautiful and serene for someone so big. The incredible experience blew my mind and still sits in my heart as much as it does in my head. Pure joy.
How do you think the growing focus on sustainability is changing attitudes towards travel?
The growth of the ethical consumer is driving the move towards sustainable tourism, travelers are prioritising holidays that mean something. It’s up to airlines, hotels and attractions to respond, which they’re getting increasingly better at – whether that’s tour operators helping with carbon offsets or hotels reducing plastic consumption. The rise of eco-certifications and accreditations can only be a good thing, helping travelers make responsible choices whilst still exploring the world and having a good time. The new Michelin Green Star is a great example of this, highlighting the restaurants leading the charge in terms of sustainable practices.
The FLOCK sustainability ethos is to make a minimal touch on the planet, we will always encourage our clients to take the greener option where possible.
What epitomises luxury to you?
Luxury is perception, we each have our own view of what makes something luxurious, shaped by our journeys through life. I’ve been incredibly lucky thanks to my career, that I’ve flown in enviable seats and stayed in incredible suites but I’ve never for a moment taken that for granted. The most luxurious moments for me are the ‘Wow’ ones, those experiences that are beyond expectation. It’s a feeling that comes from things being better than you expected, those extra personal touches. It’s about how you’re made to feel, not about extravagance, grandiosity or cost.
What’s your life motto?
The Serenity Prayer has been my life motto since I first read it when I was a schoolboy – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.