Q & A with Lesley Schofield, Co-Founder, All Points East, Denmead, Hampshire, UK; also has overseas offices in Thailand and Cambodia. “The Southeast Asia Travel Specialists since 1999.”
WHAT LED YOU AND YOUR BROTHER TO SPECIALIZE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA TRAVEL?
Mark had been living and working in Southeast Asia researching travel in the region for a number of years. By doing this, he realized he had developed an amazing network of contacts. We first established Gecko Travel which later became All Points East. And now we have these three offices – in the UK, Thailand – where Mark lives - and one in Cambodia. We believe that by specializing in an area we know and both love, we can offer the best holidays to our clients. We take travelers off the beaten track and show them the real Southeast Asia.
We are offering holidays which we hope will have a benefit to those communities we visit and with whom we consider friends, not just business associates. While leading tour groups, we are able to discuss issues surrounding the environment, local communities, and sustainable travel. While some clients are not necessarily eco-travelers, most are concerned for the places we visit and are well informed prior to travel. We hope that by the way our tours are delivered, the small group approach, and being careful in our selection of hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses, we reinforce the values already held by our clients.
PLEASE SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR CHARITY PROJECTS IN THESE COUNTRIES.
We usually leave choices about charitable work to our tour leaders – they are the ones who visit these communities most often and know what is needed. Our customers often express a desire to help the people they are visiting. We then focus our support around these needs.
In another example, past donations helped to rebuild a school in Laos, decorate it, and purchase much-need play equipment for their playground. Other donations have been earmarked for helping the displaced Karen people who live in a camp on the Burmese border – and for operations to correct cleft palate birth defects in young children living in Cambodia.
This varies from country to country. There are a few issues here – first and foremost is the welfare of these majestic creatures. All Points East never has and will never condone any mistreatment of or cruelty toward any animals. However, these elephants have been domesticated for many years; in Asia for centuries they were put to work in the logging industry. As industrialisation has advanced, there is no longer a need for elephants in the logging industry – much like we no longer depend on cart-horses for agriculture here in the UK. It is not practical to release domesticated elephants into the wild, plus there is not enough open space for them.
We often base our family tours on our tried-and-tested regular itineraries – if they work, why reinvent the wheel? We treat each family as a tour group on their own and offer them a privately-tailored itinerary based on their preferences. I know putting families together works for some companies, but we feel it can be a recipe for a reality TV show gone wrong. We respect a family’s desire for “quality family time” that can be a challenge back home.
We currently have three photographers. Gary is a Brit who came on a photographic assignment to Burma for “Food and Travel” magazine, loved it and rejoins us whenever he can; Jeff is a French resident of Phnom Penh, a professional photographer with a passion for getting to the real Cambodia; Chris is an American living sometimes in Thailand, sometimes in Burma, an excellent guide and photographer. All photography tour guides need to have great skills and flexibility with respect to both equipment and travellers.
YOU ALLOW TRAVELERS ALREADY IN A COUNTRY TO JOIN ONE OF YOUR TOUR GROUPS?
Anyone is welcome to join us on Day 2 of any itinerary – tours are priced with this in mind and offer a “without flight” option. Many of our customers who are not based in the UK use this option. We also offer tour extensions, and these can be taken before or after a tour. In general, we keep tours to two or three weeks in length so that people can fit the tour within their annual leave time. By offering extensions to travelers who may be retired or just have more time available, we can serve them, too.
Difficult to say, there are so many - the first time 15 years ago I sat on the banks of the Mekong River on the night of my birthday looking across from Thailand to Laos, knowing I’d be there the following day – that was magical. The first time I saw daybreak at Angkor Wat in Cambodia – a truly Zen moment. Taking some quiet moments to myself at the Killing Fields – emotional. But mostly I like to look ahead, and this November will be my first trip to Myanmar.
Click on the buttons below to share this post on Social Media