A Conversation with Liam Wholey, CEO and Founder of The Travel Attaché

The Middle East’s premier travel specialist, The Travel Attaché, has officially launched in Dubai. We catch up with the brand’s CEO and Founder Liam Wholey to learn about the new specialty luxury travel service, why it’s necessary for the Middle East and how it assists clients in journeying off to the destination of their dreams.

What made you decide to launch The Travel Attaché in Dubai?

I, along with The Travel Attaché’s founding partners, had long felt that there was a gap in the market for a high-end, service-focused, independent luxury travel specialist in the Middle East, similar to those found throughout Europe and the United Kingdom such as Scott Dunn, Abercrombie & Kent and Black Tomato, among others. When it came to my own honeymoon, I eventually ended up organising the whole thing myself because, try as I might, I couldn’t find a truly knowledgeable and reliable travel agency here who could deal with a multiple destination trip, issue me all of my flight tickets and hotel reservations locally as well as offer me expert advice on where I ought to go. Given how many UAE residents enjoy travelling abroad, I was surprised that such a service didn’t yet exist here.

Why do you believe that the Middle East needs this luxury travel service now?

The perception of luxury travel has changed in the Middle East, and particularly in the UAE. A luxury holiday is no longer about simply spending vast sums of money on a getaway, but being intelligent about the spending of that money –seamlessly organised multi-stop itineraries making the best use of one’s time away from work. More and more people want to take holidays with personal meaning, an adventure of a lifetime, fulfilling a long-held dream – this is what luxury has come to mean. There are many travel agencies in the region that can book a week at a five-star resort – but that’s not all that The Travel Attaché does. We look to provide solutions that resonate with our customers. We can certainly organize a week in a five-star hotel but can equally arrange a fully-serviced villa for a group of friends looking for a more economic way of accessing that level of luxury such as private jets for those looking for a little more privacy and convenience and bespoke honeymoons with expert advice based on personal experience, corporate getaways with complex itineraries and an almost inexhaustible list of tailor-made experiences that range from playing golf with a Masters Champion at Muirfield in Scotland to learning to fly a fighter jet. The people of this region want more from their leisure travel – and we can provide that for them.

What services will The Travel Attaché offer and how is it different from other luxury travel and concierge companies?

As well as providing a comprehensive travel service, we specialise in experiential travel including a wide portfolio of hotels, spas, villas, chalets, cruises, yachts and jets. We also execute tailor made experiences from bespoke honeymoons and safaris to more unusual activities such as adventure holidays, sporting getaways and shopping trips. Many of our experiential holidays are unique to us in this region and are born out of our longstanding relationship with some of the world’s premier suppliers. Our partners all over the world are the best in field and we have been working with them for many years.

What are the advantages of using a travel agent such as The Travel Attaché instead of just booking on-line and arranging a trip yourself?

Our team has over 50 years combined experience in the luxury travel and tourism sectors so we well-placed to advise our clients on where to go, when and how often. Holidaymakers will book a flight, book a hotel and then rely on guidebooks or the Internet for suggestions of what to do on arrival, but we pride ourselves on our first-hand experience of our destinations.  We have direct contracts with over 350 of the world’s leading hotels and work with over 200,000 suppliers all of whom give us preferential rates and service, which naturally we pass on to our customers. As well as the larger hotel groups we also work with boutique resorts and private properties so we can suggest alternatives to the more obvious destinations. We can organise complex itineraries including multiple-stop trips with internal transfers and corporate getaways that might involve guests flying in from several countries. Last but certainly not least, we make booking a holiday enjoyable again, removing the need for time-consuming research and the risk of costly mistakes by discussing our clients’ needs and expectations and then coming back to them with a full proposal that suits their tastes, requirements and most importantly perhaps, their budget. We take the stress out of travel restoring it instead to its glamorous best.


Are there any financial benefits that clients get when using The Travel Attaché in comparison to other travel portals?

At The Travel Attaché we are exceptionally price competitive. We have fantastic rate agreements with our suppliers from hotels and villas to our experiential travel partners. We also take a long term view of the business so our margins are low in order that a customer sees the value and therefore uses us again and passes on that feel good factor in the form of good word of mouth to their circle of friends. We also believe that we are experts in our field – there is no charge for that expertise. In fact, we can frequently put a holiday together at a lower price than if a customer were to do it online. The final important factor is time – we spend the time researching the entire trip – we send options so that the customer simply chooses an option with maybe a tweak here and there.

How do you initially hope to attract clients – from the region and internationally?

We already have a good customer base, thanks in large part to Mishal Kanoo and the Kanoo Group’s s involvement and my time as regional CEO for one of the world’s largest private concierge companies. Primarily though, we really believe in word of mouth and customer recommendations – service is key for us and we are confident that we can and will deliver a fresh travel booking experience unlike anything currently available in this part of the world.

Which areas of the world are you interested in initially concentrating on for clients from the Middle East?

As both an inbound and outbound travel agent and tour operator, we are just as committed to bringing clients into the region as we are to taking care of our regional clients on their worldwide exploits. Despite unrest in some parts, the Middle East and the UAE continue to hold real appeal for those looking for a sunshine getaway – the climate here is idyllic for 9 months of the year and as a destination it is exceptionally well-placed for those coming from Europe and Asia. For our clients residing in the region looking to travel abroad, we are predicting that the Philippines and Kenya will be two of the hottest destinations for 2013. In 2012, Kenya saw a 90% increase from its UAE visitors, a trend which we would expect to continue into next year, while the development of the Philippines’ luxury sector will certainly have an impact on those looking to discover lesser-trodden parts of Asia.

For more information, visit www.travelattache.com