For travellers who have the means to splash out on luxurious experiences, chances are that you still want to make sure you get the best bang for your buck. But for those who don’t have the time to research the best of the best, one man has done the legwork for you. Meet Philippe Kjellgren (or PK as he’s most commonly known), who made his way around the world spending 800 days researching world class hotels for his new luxury travel app PK’s List. The avid traveler is known for having extensive connections with hoteliers. He has over 20 years’ experience, published seven travel books and is the founder of the luxury travel website Kiwi Collection.
But how did this luxury traveler come to be? PK grew up in Africa with his parents in what was then Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Madagascar. It was from a young age that he got the travel bug and by the time he was 25 he had visited 100 countries. “My first business was in high-end fashion, and because of that I travelled, especially to Italy, and working with some of the top fashion houses at the time, made me appreciate design, art, architecture and fashion, that combined with my travel bug I quickly realised my real passion was luxury travel,” he tells Lonely Planet.
Research for the app was originally to take 500 days but after their first stop in Africa he quickly realised that it wouldn’t be enough. “I changed it to 800 days around the world, a fun take on Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days’” he muses. When it comes to luxury experiences, one who could easily say that PK is an expert in his field having now visited 2000 of the world’s best hotels in a whopping 139 countries. For him there are two critical elements that really makes a hotel standout; service being the most important and then attention to detail.
“When this [service] isn’t up to scratch even the most luxury hotels will no longer impress. From the moment you arrive and that first greeting through to each and every step of the trip, from friendly housekeeping, tentative bar and restaurant staff and helpful concierges who are effortlessly in the know, it’s all crucial to the smooth running of a hotel,” he says.
“As a guest, you never want the feeling of frustration or discomfort and so everything from décor, bed linen, artwork, well placed plugs, lighting and mirrors in the rooms, amenities and facilities are key. Hotels that spend the extra time and effort creating a welcoming and all-encompassing atmosphere are the ones that will surprise and delight”.
A few years ago PK set about creating one of the world’s most trusted travel clubs PK’s List, whose “Elite Membership” includes royal families, dignitaries, VIPs and celebrities. The new smart phone app complements the club and offers members exclusive insights into the world’s best hotels, with hotel contact details to hand, a ‘quick book’ option and benefits including upgrades, spa credits, gift vouchers and late checkout at select hotels.
For PK he believes that what makes his app stands out is that he has personally gone to vigorously vet every single one of them to ensure the best perks for members. One experience that particularly stands out for him is a recent visit to Amanyangyun outside Shanghai whose owner spent 15 years creating the resort and hotel.
“When plans for a much-needed reservoir were approved in 2002, the fate of the historic villages and forests of eastern China’s Jiangxi province, Fuzhou, were in jeopardy and so the owner began a major relocation,” PK says. “He sensitively relocated 50 Ming and Qing-dynasty villas and 10,000 trees, 700km to Shanghai to create Amanyangyun. Each and every tree was re-planted and the 600 year old stone houses were lovingly reconstructed brick by brick. Almost a decade on and the ethereal camphor forest sets the tone for a peaceful, introspective retreat, where old and new, natural and manmade, coexist in perfect harmony”.
At its most basic tier, the app costs the user US $100 (£74) a year and is available to download from the App Store. The next level of membership is the Travel Club, which is by referral only or awarded for free to great brand ambassadors who have recommended the app to 20 people or more. The cost for this is $500 (£370) for an annual membership. For Elite Membership which is by invitation only, users will have to fork out $10,000 (approx. £7,400) for the annual fee.
You can find out more about PK’s Travel app on his website here.