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Made to order

Caroline Boey


Sarah Keenlyside, managing dictator, Bespoke Travel Company
Photo by Mark Graham
WHO A former reporter with London’s Sunday Times, Sarah Keenlyside moved to China in 2005 where she was involved with running the Time Out magazine.  It was during the 2008 Beijing Olympics that spurred her to help visitors who found it hard to navigate around the city.
Bespoke Travel Company was born a year later when Keenlyside founded the Beijing-based firm as managing dictator. The company specialises in customised city experiences by expert curators on the ground, and has hosted celebrities the likes of Katy Perry, Matt Damon and Johnny Depp.

WHAT
Eschewing package tours for personalised ones, Bespoke offers an online travel menu of all the components needed to create a personalised trip, with tours priced separately so travellers know exactly where the money is going.
For example, the traveller will see how much it costs to hire a tour guide, a car, do a taichi
class, etc, and even the hourly fees for Bespoke to customise the trip – a radical departure from the industry norm.


WHY? Keenlyside believes the new creative class of traveller wants customisation, value for money, honesty and savvy tips from people in the know, hence they will also appreciate the transparency and collaborative design process in customising the packages.
She is keenly aware that sophisticated travellers want to delve deeper into the local history beyond the touristy version, enjoy memorable meals whether it is street food or fine dining, and stay somewhere fun.


Target? The goal for Bespoke – which started in Beijing and has since expanded to Shanghai – is to offer its service all over the world. The company is looking to open offices in New York and Tokyo next, and seeks to make travel easier and more personalised for its Western and Chinese clients alike.