We sit down with the President of Holiday Tours & Travel, Ben Foo and find out how the way you travel will change forever (and for the better) with T’ROKA.
Amanjiwo is transformative – it takes you into another realm. A recent visit to this magical place has been made possible with T’roka, a new luxury travel brand by Holiday Tours & Travel. With T’roka, it’s seamless access to all things travel – from hotels and resorts to airlines and other travel-related services. Enjoy peace of mind while you embark on the best adventure of your lifetime.
A passing shower greets us as we arrive at Amanjiwo after a two-hour drive from Yogjakarta International Airport. Walking into the pillared rotunda of the resort, every step on the limestone paved floor is steeped with a mystical sense of cultural immersion – the gamelan luxuriates with its calming notes while the flower girls carve a smile on my face.
From the central communal space where hotel guests can be seen dining and sipping champagne, the arresting view of Borobudur leaves you speechless (and breathless, literally!). The afterrain adds a veil of misty-riousness as the sun slowly makes it way out from the thick clouds.
“My first time in Amanjiwo and Yogjakarta has been very nice and very peaceful,” opens Ben Foo, President of Holiday Tours & Travel.
Sitting in the library, I find myself intrigued by Foo’s anecdotes from his travels. A seasoned traveller nevertheless, Foo presses on a people-centric notion when it comes to establishing T’roka as a brand. It stems from personal experiences and the experiences of those Holiday Tours & Travel have been a part of in the past five decades.
He adds: “Just by the name alone ‘teroka’, we want people to know the history and origins of a place. We are looking at the needs of the travellers today – what they are looking for beyond deciding on a destination.”
You see, we are not here to just experience the therapeutic essence of Amanjiwo but to understand how T’roka works when it comes to providing its members and discerning travellers a platform to travel better – and meaningfully.
It boils down to the surprise element – how T’roka bridges the travellers and the places through means of experiences, cultural immersion, and activities of sorts, then leaving them with more than just a feel-good factor. “We want to dial up some of these places to get people to be like “Oh, I never knew that,” expresses Foo.
And just like that… I succumb to my unconditional surrender to this sacred ground.
We check in with Foo on his personal experience as an avid traveller, how the travel patterns have shifted post-pandemic, and what T’roka is all about – as well as why you should be a member today.
What do you love about Aman?
I’ve always heard about Aman but it’s not something that I was very familiar with – it remains mystical to me. But I think when I started to see all the different Aman properties, I started to notice that every one of them is very special and unique. I’m intrigued by the stories behind each property and I think for me, in my own personal travels, that’s what I look for now.
Wherever I go, I want to be able to invest in places that are steeped with stories. Stories about the people and the place resonate with me – that to me is something that matters more. For example, here in Amanjiwo, the whole idea of it being at a UNESCO Heritage site is already a huge plus. They have been here for decades and they’ve been part of the conservation as well while also giving back to the villagers here. It tells me that it is not just a resort that’s trying to make money but to devote itself to preserving the cultural and historical component of the place.
I think that’s what Troka is trying to bring out – the ‘teroka’ aspect that is the discovery of the place and also the discovery within yourself in this place.
From your own personal experiences, where are the other places that would equal the kind of experiences that both tell a story and offer a culturally immersive experience?
I recently had one in Oman – not your typical destination and I stayed in Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar. What’s special about the place is that it’s on the peak of the green mountain – a luxurious desert resort set against the sand dunes. It is the little details that caught my attention – from the hiking experience arranged by the hotel to the visit to the villages on the cliffs along the hotel. I was also moved by the stories of the locals, through means of agriculture and community – inspiring me to foster the kind of experience that we’d like to offer at T’roka.
How did the idea of T’roka come about?
It came from a few places – one of course is from these experiences. In essence, Holiday Tours & Travel as a company has been around for almost five decades. So we have a really strong corporate management division and are used to serving corporate travellers; travellers with high expectations per se. Knowing what these expectations are and meeting those expectations have been something we feel is the catalyst to our confidence to do something like T’roka.
How has travel changed after the global pandemic?
From the industry perspective, I think it is different because the industry is still trying to recover with the number of aircraft, the number of pilots, and the frequency of flights. I believe it is going to take at least a year or two for the industry to return to full swing. We’ve seen progress from bigger airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways, and big moves from local players like AirAsia.
For us, we are investing a lot in making sure our systems can support the kind of personalisation that we want to give to customers and from the traveller’s point of view, it’s the notion of spending more for better peace of mind and having things taken care of. I think that’s going to be the key theme for travel.
Travellers don’t mind spending more now, with the intent to splurge on one big trip rather than two smaller trips. A lot of research and planning go into making the trip more special and I believe consumers want someone who can enable the process – And I think these personalised and bespoke trips will emerge even more.
There’s a lot of personalisation when it comes to travelling – what is T’roka doing differently when it comes to catering to the target audience?
Coming out of Covid-19, we realise that the affluent market is our target audience because they would still find a way to spend on things that really matter – like travelling. I think that’s one learning curve for us as well. We’ve got the base of customers; so to create something that works for them is definitely the next best thing to have for the brand.
I think there are always going to be trends and things like wellness, sustainability and the cultural experience. Wellness is very strong, especially in today’s context and people are really into mindfulness and relaxation. That’s why we are also building a collection of hotels centering around this notion. One thing that we see very strongly is the idea of having ‘peace of mind’. Safety will always be a concern – so with T’roka, we want to provide access to a seamless travelling experience minus the complexities.
How do you select your destination offerings on T’roka?
For us at T’roka, we are actually selecting some destinations that are off the beaten tracks. We have staple ones like Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia but we want to focus a bit more on destinations like Maldives because there are a lot to explore there. In Europe, there’s Spain which is beloved for its culture and art, as well as places like Iceland, Hungary and Monaco. I think getting people to experience things that many don’t normally talk about a lot is also cool. Even Africa and Morocco – we would be able to bring out the most unique experiences from these places.
Personally, what would your list of ‘off-beaten tracks’ look like? What would really surprise travellers?
I would say the other side of Spain that’s not typical like Mallorca – a very charming place and there’s a particular lodge under the Small Luxury Hotel range where they turned a farm into a boutique hotel. Here, you get to explore Spain in a different way. Iceland I think would be quite a surprise as well. And Morocco would be another destination that I personally want to have as a top destination. I feel these locations have so much to tell and I want the very discerning travellers to find these countries to be not so inaccessible.
Having that access is a way for us to add value to our members.
Let’s talk about the aspirational crowd, Gen Zs. How would you describe their travelling habits at the moment and what are you doing to cater to this younger audience?
The younger generation is definitely very discerning. Apart from the budget and affordability, it is the aspect of doing what they want to do or what is meaningful to them – they are objective-driven. So it can be going for Coachella or to a concert for instance. So on that note, the psychographic aspect of Gen Z is already a complete mirror of what T’roka wants to do.
At T’roka, we acknowledge that everyone can be a member and enjoy the benefits. You can book a T’roka collection hotel and reap the privileges that come with it or even if you’re thinking of somewhere out of our pool of hotels, we will serve our customers and make those bookings for you as well while still offering the personal experience that’s very much innate with the T’roka DNA. So the T’roka membership is one way of enjoying the benefits and more when it comes to travel and planning your holiday.
Share with us, how to be a member of T’roka?
Well, you can simply sign up on our website. There are no fees to be a member, and you’d already have immediate access to the classic tier membership benefits which include complimentary breakfasts for two and room upgrades, as well as a personal travel advisor. It is activated the moment you make your first booking.
What is the ultimate vision for T’roka?
The vision for T’roka is really to be known as an Asian brand that serves as a global community. Just by the name alone – ‘teroka’ – we want people to know the history and origins of a place, as well as to be a global player that is rooted in Malaysia. For now, it’s one customer at a time. As long as we ensure the level of service is great and their experience when they travel is excellent, then they can come back and say that they’d recommend T’roka to their friends and family; that to us is a measure of success. So it’s the quality of the experience we deliver to our customers that is our current short-term goal, and if we do this right then our ambition is to become a brand that is Southeast Asia and beyond with a global base of customers.
For bargain hunters, the best decision you can make it to sign up as a T’roka member. With no registration fees, you’re instantly eligible for multiple benefits including free upgrades, complimentary breakfasts and more. And of course, T’roka has more than just the Aman resorts under its list of offerings – you have to find it out yourself at troka.co!