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Jaclyn Sienna India, the travel guide to presidents


Jaclyn Sienna India, whose clients include former US president George Bush, talks about exclusive holidays, post-pandemic challenges, and why even billionaires can be shown the door

Jaclyn Sienna India, whose clients include former US president George Bush, talks about exclusive holidays, post-pandemic challenges, and why even billionaires can be shown the door

Exclusivity, discretion, and a personal touch are Jaclyn Sienna India’s signatures. From closing down the Sydney Opera House, the Hagia Sophia, the Louvre, the Great Sphinx of Giza, Machu Picchu, and the Taj for an exclusive visit, to working with local partners to build luxury camps for her clients, she is not your average travel agent. For this Beverly Hills-based ‘super travel agent’, catering to presidents, billionaires, studio heads and celebrities such as Mariah Carey is a routine day.

India fell in love with luxury hospitality during her college years. While studying art history at Philadelphia’s Temple University, she worked at the now closed Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Bec Fin. “I got an understanding of the amazing level of knowledge and personal touch that accompanied the service. That was a learning ground,” says India, who established her boutique travel company, Sienna Charles, in 2008. Since then it has transformed into a lifestyle concierge firm, with members from the $100 million club (who, according to reports pay between $75,000 and $150,000 a year).

Luxury properties from Sienna Charles

What money can buy

Having travelled to 90 countries — she’s on the road 200 days a year, personally vetting every location, yacht, villa and restaurant she recommends to her clients — India prides herself in going the extra mile for her clients. “When I take on a new client, I meet them in person,” she says. “I see what they look like, what they like to eat, the way they interact with people [I have no hang-ups turning down people who are rude]… We discuss their passions: do they love wine, pursue history, or are they looking at reconnecting with their life or their family. When I understand what their expectation is, I kind of take out my toolbox and create a new experience for them.”

Like, for example, when former US president George Bush travelled with her to Ethiopia in 2015. She was not satisfied with the accommodation on offer, so her team purchased brand new furniture, bedding and sheets, and built beautiful accommodations from scratch. “I’ll never accept a no if I can do one better. I know what the preferences of my clients are and I fight for them before they even arrive,” she says. “When you are willing to spend, it all gets a little easier to get the things you want.”

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Little wonder that she closed down monuments in Egypt for a world leader, or covered the entire floor of a private villa with exotic ‘Cherry Snow’ roses flown in from Ecuador for a client’s wife’s birthday. On another occasion, she arranged a private breakfast on the top of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris, and across the Atlantic Ocean, worked with movie set producers and styling experts to create a cinematic Parisian scene in the heart of Miami, where famed chef Eric Ripert designed a special menu. “Nothing is a weird request anymore.”

Relationships, not transactions

India’s journey with her clients (“there is always a waiting list”) never ends with the completion of a tour. “We become family. We have personal-professional relationships spanning a decade or so,” she says. Recently, when she visited a new Indian restaurant in London, she called up one of her clients famous for his love of Indian food and asked him to check out the place for the authentic cuisine it offered.

Jaclyn Sienna India

Jaclyn Sienna India

“It’s a very collaborative relationship that I cultivate,” she says, explaining that her clients usually stay on with her for years. “It naturally gets easier to cater to them after the first trip. If there is a place that we decide on which I haven’t explored earlier, I make it a point to go on a recce. I’ve spent time on the ground hand-picking the hotels, tasting the food at the restaurants, and finding unique personalities to take my clients around on their visits,” she says. “Of course, there have also been times when I’ve come back and said, ‘It’s not a fit, I think we should find somewhere else to go.’ My clients have always trusted my decisions.”

Roadblocks and family time

The pandemic, has brought with it its own set of challenges. Be it getting into a restaurant or a hotel, or even a country, there is paperwork and problems, she rues. “We have had families in the US who want to travel with a private chef. And that’s a challenge because private chefs are in short supply.” But demand for more meaningful experiences is also going up. There is a focus on wellness, with requests coming in for detox resorts and yogi masters. And as she recently told barrons.com, “Yachting is the most popular it has been. Clients sometimes pay $100,000 to $300,000 a week and bring their multi-generational family for a trip.”

Offshore escapes

Offshore escapes
| Photo Credit: @siennacharles

Post-pandemic trends

* People are buying assets — jets, villas, yachts, vacation homes — instead of renting them. It is definitely more hygienic and safe if one can afford it.

* They are also looking for ‘different’ destinations. The billionaire calendar is no longer about skiing in Aspen or visiting France in August. Italy is still big, but people are over frequented places such as Tuscany. They are now looking at finding something virgin.

Remote, private escapes are gaining popularity

Remote, private escapes are gaining popularity
| Photo Credit: @siennacharles

Five destinations for 2022

* Seoul for its incredible food and unique beauty

* Singapore for its all-encompassing dining and wine scene

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay

* Northern Italy — from Parma and Lake Garda to Turin — which is still unexplored and can offer a lot of surprises

* Iceland for some cool skiing options

* India for its soulful experiences. “I loved my stay in Ananda [just before the pandemic]; I think it is one of the most serene moments I have had.”



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