An Interview with J.P Hans Gauthier, Co-founder of Elegant Destinations
Why did you decide to start Elegant Destinations?
Trou aux Biches had been the deserted tropical beach of my youth where a handful of lucky families had their ‘campements’ and Popo sold bottles of coke from a stall. At the end of the 1980s we decided to develop our own family plot into apartments. After a year of staying there ourselves we felt ready to rent it along with friends who had also developed their plots. In the earlier days the guests were French and used to rent cheaply via a letter to owners and paying in cash on arrival. The Holiday Rentals website allowed us to reach out to the first adventurous internet clients and as demand grew Elegant Destinations was able to launch its own website.
How often do you travel?
I used to travel 4 times a year as development in Mauritius and Seychelles was rapid and there was the team to train. Nowadays I travel less but still feel that nothing beats face to face contact and relationship building with owners, agents and clients is very important.
Describe a typical trip.
There isn’t one really. We recommend villas for families as well as hotels, so when possible I make a trip with our 4 teenage children to test out the properties. We typically would make a 3 week trip staying at 4 or 5 different properties and resorts. On our last trip the children were able to try all the facilities and create their own content for our blog as well as give valuable feedback to the owners. Although Mauritius is a small island there is a lot of time on the road visiting remote coasts where owners have proudly built a villa. We give them advice and ensure that the relationship is successful for both parties and is long term.
What have been your highlights?
- Opening of Le Sakoa in Trou Aux Biches and Oasis villas in Grand Bay and to see the huge response to these new exciting products and being the only company renting them out initially.
- Welcoming clients back again and again and introducing them to the new villas you have found that you know they will enjoy.
- The launching of social media and interacting more intimately with clients on Facebook and Twitter. The whole experience is faster and more personal for us and the client.
- Spending a week with the associate editor of Conde Nast Traveller Peter Brown and sharing our portfolio and experience with him.
- Meeting with agents from around the globe at ILTM events in Cannes and Cape Town and sharing our portfolio.
- Seeing the launch of Villa Praslin, an exclusive 5 bedroom fully catered beachfront villa in Seychelles and enjoying the feedback from clients.
What makes the Indian Ocean so special for clients renting villas?
Renting a villa in the Indian Ocean enables our clients to get to know the people, culture and country in an intimate way. From the smile of the maid going about her housekeeping to the wonderful handmade dishes she prepares, the guests are made to feel welcome and at home right away. Our local team takes pride in sharing their lovely country and its delights with the clients. The food is also of huge importance to our clients and the diverse nature of the cuisine from Indian, French, Creole and Chinese makes for a memorable experience.
What is the most rewarding aspect of running Elegant Destinations for the last 20 years?
Seeing clients come back to you year after year to book and enjoying the islands that you also love so much is one of the most rewarding feelings a business owner can have.