For a person for whom travel and tourism have become second nature, a meeting with one of the “gurus” in the field is for sure a chance not to be missed. I felt something like this when one afternoon last summer, fatigued after contacts and activities, I was informed that at the Sani Resort we were hosting Simon Leadsford, Publishing Director of Condι Nast Traveller U.K. He had come to Sani on holiday with his wife and their two children – a boy and a girl – and I couldn`t even imagine his leaving without him previously talking to me! I immediately sought him out, and after the opening introductions, and seeing before me a genial and easy-going person, positively inclined to share his experiences from his trips all over the world as well as from his so fascinating job, my invitation for us all to dine and talk that evening at “Tomata”, came spontaneously to my lips. The immediate acceptance made me very happy; but little did I know the far greater pleasure that would be instilled in me by that conversation, for Simon Leadsford not only had an answer to all my queries, but also the passion that distinguishes the ardent traveller, that dynamism you feel being evoked from his experiences, making them yours, too. We spoke of trips around the world, but also about his other daily trip to work, which, apart from its inherent interest, is also a procedure that in its final form in the pages of the emblematic magazine he heads, marks out the route for millions of its enthusiastic readers worldwide, who select a destination only after being reassured that it is the one that fits the bill for them based on the evaluations of Condι Nast Traveller. That isn`t a small thing!
Let`s begin by talking about your work. Describe your typical day.
As Director of Publication, I`m responsible for the success of the magazine. It is somewhat comparable to being the General Manager of a hotel. I keep in touch with many departments: editing, marketing, distribution, commercial, production and, of course, printing. My typical day begins with a morning meeting with some customer(s) – he may be a tourism consultant, a group from a hotel, or an advertiser of luxury items. We discuss various ways of commercially collaborating in both our printed and electronic issues. The commercial department joins us at meetings with advertising or public relations companies, thereby guaranteeing that we get our basic message across or ensuring the realization of presentations. In addition, there is a wide range of new activities and products that I must attend to, ranging from the opening of a tourist resort to the launching of a perfume or the presentation of a new car model. Furthermore, I check with the Head of Advertising about how the business is evolving and we discuss the next projects on which the commercial department will work. The public does not understand that magazines can only exist as going concerns if the advertising revenue is enough to support them. Moreover, I spend a significant part of my time with the editorial team, exchanging ideas for the six coming months, reviewing the previous issues in relation to their distinctive features, cost, and circulation levels. In the afternoon, I try to reply to all my e-mails, but this is an on-going process. In conclusion, no day is the same as the next, and this is what makes my work interesting and diverse.
What do you like the most from what you do?
That I collaborate with fascinating people, both creative and amusing, with whom I share the same interest: a passion for travel.
From where have you just returned?
From Paris, a city that is amazingly glamorous by night. I met some clients and saw the new designs for our webpage.
Tell us about a place which left you with vivid impressions.
Vancouver. Cold, urban setting, breath-taking locations and wildlife…
And one which disappointed you?
Probably Lille in France. My wife and I took a day trip there a few years ago using the Eurostar, having heard that it is very picturesque and full of lovely shops and cafes. We went on a really warm August day only to find it was a public holiday and everything was closed. We spent quite a long time on the platform waiting to return home. My wife was expecting our first child and we felt under a great deal of pressure. Truth be told, to be fair, I should have checked it out beforehand.
Which is your favourite city?
New York. I travel there twice a year and I`m forever enthused by the energy level and the constant sense of change it exudes. I adore the restaurant scene, Central Park, the outline on the horizon created by the skyscrapers, the traffic noise, as well as the clear blue sky on a cold autumn day!
Which street have you walked along most often in your life?
I live in north London and, thus, commute daily via Hampstead and Regent Park to get to work. In the summer, I like to get about by bicycle: there is much less traffic and it really gives me the opportunity to clear my mind. Internationally, I frequently cross the Atlantic. My wife is from Canada and we like to spend extended periods there. Describe to us the most marvellous view you have ever seen. I have always liked aeroplanes, so the best view for me is the sun appearing over the horizon as I fly above the clouds.
Which is your most “guilty” pleasure?
Haribo sweets, especially those with the Coca-Cola bottle shape. I find them ideal for afternoon hypoglycemia!
Describe a memory from your childhood holidays.
I vividly recall watching a bullfight in Spain together with my parents when I was seven years old. The atmosphere was electric, the crowd noisy and demanding. I remember being dazzled by the bullfighters, yet shocked by the blood. My mother, to calm me down, told me it was ketchup and the bulls were not really dead but pretending to be asleep.
Where did you go on vacation for the first time without your parents?
To Los Angeles. I was 17 years old and went to stay with a family for five weeks. It was the most splendid adventure I have ever had. Imagine the impression California made on a teenager from a village near Chester. We went camping in the Yosemite National Park and the Mojave Desert. I saw Disneyland and the Universal Studios, toured the heights of Beverly Hills... I lived the dream. To this day, California totally captivates me.
Tell us about a small, sublime spot you have visited.
‘The Point’, a small hotel in New York near a lake, the former summer residence of J. D. Rockefeller. We stayed there on our honeymoon and it was idyllic. I could characterize its style as a coming together of Ralph Lauren and the Walton Family! It had a speedboat for trips around the lake, fantastic trails, excellent food, and an expertly stocked wine cellar. Truly, I want to go back there.
Which is the “Smartest” hotel you have ever stayed at?
The Hotel du Cap Eden at Cap Antibes. Truly, a little piece of paradise.
You gave your heart to…
Toronto! I lived there when I was young. Returning at some point to visit an old university friend of mine, I met Laoura, who finally agreed to marry me!
Who is the most interesting individual you have met on your travels?
An Indian called Rahoul: a guide, jack-of-all-trades, outstandingly knowledgeable about his land and essential for anybody going on a tour of Bombay. He had an incredible sense of humour and an amazing personal life story.
When preparing your suitcases, what do you pack first?
Insect repellent! Mosquitoes adore me but I abhor them!
Which foreign phrase do you use most frequently?
“Can I see the cocktail list?” I know this essential phrase in Spanish – “Puerdo ver el menu des cocteles por favor? “- in French – “Puisje voir le menu cocktail s`il vous plaξt”- in Italian - ”Posso vedere il cocktail menu per favore”- and, of course, in Welsh – “Agas I weld y fwydlen coctel os gwelwch yn dda”! To be honest, I`ve never had a cocktail in Wales!
Which is your favourite memory of a trip with your children?
Sailing along the Du Midi Canal in the south of France, August last. In a luxury sailing boat we went from Carcassonne to Beziers, through stunningly beautiful countryside. The children were able to cycle along the canal-side paths, explore the small markets of the towns situated on our route, and do some windsurfing, too. They also practiced their French with the locals and, for the first time in their lives, were cut off from their electronic games, without complaining.
What do you believe your children gain from travel experiences?
I would like them, first of all, to appreciate how fortunate they are to be able to travel the world and become acquainted with different cultures. I hope it instils in them a sense of tolerance and an inquisitive spirit. Most of all, I trust that they enjoy the many different adventures they are able to share with their parents.
Do you believe that nowadays a new philosophy exists concerning travel? And, if so, could you specify it?
People are now very busy and bombarded with information about almost everything. The demanding traveller is searching for authoritative, intelligent and stimulating travel information which, however, has been monitored by professionals. We believe that the well-to-do traveller looks for an authentic experience with access to knowledge of the locality as well as an environment which can, moreover, afford a strong sense of private life. People want a unique and enjoyable experience – that`s what it`s all about.
What do you appreciate most about the hospitality that a hotel offers and what do you detest?
For the service to be impeccable, the food good and the view beautiful. I hate to have found an appropriate hotel and then be unable to find a room free there during the summer months!
At Sani, however, where he told us he had a wonderful stay and is also thinking of coming again with his family this year, we promise to make sure he has the room he likes at his disposal!