Experience our Asia! EXO Travel develop bespoke travel itineraries around Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Japan, China, and Malaysia. Each of our unique tours evoke a sense of belonging and oneness by immersing yourself with the culture and experiencing their genuine hospitality. Now that's service with a smile!
Customs cleared, baggage collected and the doors open to a new destination. The neutral, climate-controlled interior is disrupted by the sliding doors of the outside, where a sea of foreign faces gaze inquisitively. From initial scents and the wide-eyed drive in, to the first market wanders and local interactions, everything is fresh, exciting and unforgettable.
For those who are willing to step outside comfort zones and embark into the unknown, travel affords some of the most insightful and enlightening experiences imaginable. An infinitude of possibilities unfolds, the world appears much bigger and then exceedingly smaller, and preconceived notions evaporate into the foreign air.
While the act of travel constantly rewards intrepid personalities with unique experiences, sometimes it takes a bit of local knowledge to bring experiences to the next level.
Due to our positioning all throughout Asia, we live and breathe each destination in which we operate. Not only can we offer the most authentic, inimitable experiences, we can also offer truly unique, local experiences with some of the region’s most remarkable people.
What this means varies from destination to destination, but all encounters are equally memorable. Whether from a destination native or adoptive expatriate, a local take always unveils something new and exciting.
Insider Access provides just this: going beyond the main attractions, breaking the surface and becoming entirely immersed in an experience. Additionally, the sheer variety in encounters offers something for every personality and travel style.
ACCESS TO TRADITION
While tradition is a key element of travel in Asia, there is one destination that stands out in particular. Japan has become one of the world’s most progressive countries whilst retaining much of its traditional culture. This tradition is present in every corner of the nation and helps to make each destination extraordinary. Because Japan is so traditional, however, it can be difficult for an ‘outsider’ to crack the facade of the ancient empire. Enter: Insider Access. Two quintessential images of Japan are sumo and geisha. Witnessing a sumo wrestling competition or a geisha performance is an undeniably enriching experience. What can make the encounter all the more unforgettable, however, is getting to spend quality, personal time with each of these iconic figures. Insider Access offers an intimate encounter with each personality, discovering exactly what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a living, breathing tradition. Discover the rigorous schedule and lifestyle that is required to sustain a sumo wrestler; crack the majestic surface of the geisha to learn what life is actually like through a photoshoot with this traditional, yet modern-day entertainer in Japan.
For more information on these experiences, contact email@example.com.
For most foreigners, little is known about the landlocked nation of Laos. Despite offering a plethora of attractions, the country often gets overlooked. For those who take the time to get to know this small, yet dynamic country, their efforts are highly rewarded.
Of all the remarkable destinations in Laos, Luang Prabang always seems to come out on top. The spiritual hub of the nation, this sleepy UNESCO ‘city’ is drenched in natural beauty and entrancing cultural marvels. Among those is the ubiquitous practice of the Buddhist religion seen throughout the city. Insider Access offers a private encounter with a buddhist monk where one will receive the traditional blessing ceremony of baci. This fascinating encounter leaves one with wishes of good karma and prosperity and a deeper understanding of the believes and practices of Buddhism. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
ACCESS TO THE ARTS
The arts are cherished around the globe. Offered in all different modes, methods and mediums, receiving some insight into their creative processes and end results is a truly fascinating experience. When combined with landmark sites and historical significance, the experiences are extremely impactful.
With some one-on-one personal time with the founder, learn everything from his extraordinary background and survival during the regime to his vision for Cambodia’s future. Reach out to email@example.com for more information.
In Indonesia, a glimpse into the arts is offered in a rather unexpected destination. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta is usually traffic and overpopulation… not the arts, fashion or design. Beyond the city’s ribbon of brakelights, in the Cilandak district of South Jakarta, is the home and museum of one of Asia’s most esteemed creative minds. Harry Darsono is an Indonesian celebrity fashion mogul and ingenious designer who has outfitted the likes of Princess Diana and Jordan’s Queen Rania. His home and museum displays a wide collection of fashion items and antiquities, bringing visitors through the country’s haute couture scene and fashion evolution. A half day under this creative mastermind’s roof is a veritable exercise in inspiration, succeeded by fine dining and a visit to one of Jakarta’s pioneering galleries and museums. For enquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ACCESS TO ARCHITECTURE
When it comes to architecture in Asia, China’s city of Shanghai is king. Hosting a number of the world’s tallest buildings alongside hidden colonial gems, the metropolis offers insight into the past and foresight into the world’s emerging “megatall” structures. Whilst a stroll along the icons of Shanghai is requisite for any visit, Insider Access allows architecture buffs to see beyond the facade of these man-made marvels. From art-deco villas to towering skyscrapers, join a local expert on an insightful, architecture-focused walking tour through the past, present and future of China. For more information, contact email@example.com.
This year, our sustainability efforts will be taking a giant leap forward through a commitment to offset the carbon emissions of every domestic and regional flight our travellers take in all our destinations. This will result in a massive ten-fold improvement from the already substantial 332 tonnes we’ve offset in these destinations since 2015.
To achieve these goals, we’ll be working in signed partnership with NEXUS for Development to support a three-pronged carbon offset strategy: investing in clean water, improving local livelihoods and providing access to clean, renewable energy.
By nurturing social enterprises to develop ceramic water filtration systems in Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia, we’ll help to reduce the prevalence of waterborne illnesses, one of the leading causes of poverty, while also creating employment opportunities in local communities. This will help to offset Co2 emissions by reducing fuel consumption while relieving pressures put on local forests.
Furthermore, we’ll be helping to create renewable energy solutions to underprivileged communities which, in turn, will decrease the massive environmental stresses created by some 2.7 million people who are still reliant on wood, charcoal and other solid fuels for cooking and heating.
This is just one way EXO, with the lead of EXO Foundation, extends our commitment to responsible tourism by addressing climate change and helping communities in our travel destinations have improved living standards and quality of life.
RUBEN DERKSEN Product & Marketing Director – EXO Group
Joining EXO Travel first as Product Director, Ruben’s responsibilities have since expanded to cover the overall product, contracting and marketing strategies for EXO Travel Group. In addition to having an MBA and heaps of experience within the industry, Ruben also has a very interesting story. As the son to the former Dutch Counsel to Bhutan and Nepal, he literally has travel in his DNA. He took his first international flight at the tender age of two months and has, since then, lived in 13 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. He also speaks English, Dutch and French fluently, and can even read and write Tibetan. is responsible for setting and executing the overall product, contracting and marketing strategies for EXO Travel Group.
YOU HAVE A PRETTY UNIQUE BACKGROUND. COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT IT AND HOW THIS SHAPES YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON TRAVEL IN ASIA?
I’ve had the unique and fortunate opportunity to spend significant lengths of time learning about and integrating with cultures across the globe. This not only helps me relate with people from various backgrounds, but it gives me an appreciation of the diversity that makes our world so amazing. I’ve learned that, regardless of where people come from, we all share certain human tendencies. At the same time, the way people express this humanity is so varied: from art and architecture to religion and tradition. The beauty of travelling, to me, is in being able to witness this variation –and this is what I try to highlight in everything we do.
IF YOU ‘ARE WHAT YOU EAT’, ONE COULD ALSO SAY YOU ‘ARE WHERE YOU GO’. IF YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE IN ASIA, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHY?
In terms of food, I like things spicy. I like my travel destinations the same way. The kind of places that I personally enjoy the most, though, are places where I can get lost in nature. I’m really drawn to the incredible biodiversity in Asia. The region is home to some of the world’s most lush and verdant landscapes and filled with an array of impossibly exotic wildlife that, even after 20 years of living here, still blows my mind. Borneo’s a great example of this. Although I’ve been there once, I still haven’t properly explored it. I dream of visiting places like Gunung Mulu and Bako National Parks in Sarawak.
ASIA HAS INSPIRED TRAVELLER’S IMAGINATIONS FOR GENERATIONS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE REGION THAT MAKES IT SO MAGICAL?
Part of what makes Asia such a magical place is how steeped in history it is –both naturally and culturally. It’s home to the oldest rainforests on earth. Places like Taman Negara, in Peninsular Malaysia, harbour rainforests that have existed mostly as they are today for more than 130 million years. At the same time, Asia is also home to the oldest continually existing civilisation on earth. Chinese civilisation, which has profound cultural influence throughout Asia, is rooted in at least 5,000 years of history. The result of this deep connection to history is a place that often allows travellers to feel as though they’ve stepped back in time.
EXO has always recognised the importance of ‘little things’ in creating successful travel products. It’s part of what separates us and our partners from the competition.
ALTHOUGH ASIA IS KNOWN FOR ITS ICONIC LANDSCAPES AND DESTINATIONS, IT’S OFTEN THE ‘LITTLE THINGS’ WHICH ARE MOST MEMORABLE. HOW DOES EXO INCORPORATE THESE INTO ITS OFFERINGS?
I couldn’t agree more. EXO has always recognised the importance of ‘little things’ in creating successful travel products. It’s part of what separates us and our partners from the competition. Designing ‘highlights tours’ is a necessary part of the game. Ultimately, you want to offer guests what they want to see. By including exclusive encounters with local people and visits to hidden spots along the way, we’re able to introduce guests to an entirely different aspect of destinations that they might not experience otherwise. We also believe including ‘little things’ operationally as well. This is often a simple matter of finding out what our guests’ personal preferences are, and taking an extra step to include them in tours.
TRAVEL IS AN EVER-CHANGING INDUSTRY. WHAT ARE SOME TRENDS THAT YOU SEE SHAPING THE WAY PEOPLE TRAVEL IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
One of the biggest things that’s transforming travel these days is connectivity. Never before have people separated by vast distances been able to share experiences so easily. In some ways, this connectivity lacks a real human element to it, though. So we’ve found that there’s an increasing desire from our guests to bridge this digital divide through real-world cultural interactions. This is one of the reasons EXO has been making a big push into experiential cultural encounters that bring travellers face to face with local people in mutually beneficial experiences such as our Insider Access and Local Dining tours.
More travellers are in search of holidays that involve more than just checking off a list of highlights or lounging by a pool. EXO Active tours are specialised travel experiences designed for travellers who want to feel the pulse of a destination while filling their lungs with its air.
By walking, hiking, biking and multi-sporting through destinations, EXO Active brings travellers straight to the soul of a destination while reserving plenty of time to check out highlights and relax along the way. We supply the equipment, expertise, ground support and logistics, travellers supply the passion for adventure, and Asia supplies the gorgeous backdrops and charming local cultures.
Thailand’s ancient martial art of Muay Thai presents the perfect opportunity to showcase what EXO Active adventures are all about. While undeniably physical in nature, Muay Thai is steeped in ancient traditions which date back hundreds of years. Under the guidance of a professional Muay Thai trainer, guests are introduced to the history, traditions and rituals of Muay Thai before being baptised in the sport, learning fundamental moves and maneuvers. They’re then treated to a series of exclusive encounters starting with a backstage visit at the world-famous Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium. Here they’ll have a chance to witness a side of the sport few outsiders get to see: the intense focus and preparation that takes place before a fight. They then grab a ringside seat to witness all the things they learned throughout the day put into action. Afterwards, they meet the winner of the main event for an unforgettable photo opportunity before being presented with a pair of authentic Muay Thai boxing shorts as a perfect memento.
One of the reasons Vietnam is such a joy to travel in is its ability to seemingly transport travellers to a bygone era. The deep connection that Vietnamese people have with their past and the speed at which bustling cities seem to fade into sleepy rural landscapes make it a study of contrasts and the perfect place to embark on an active outdoors experience. Our Farm to Fishing tour in the historic town of Hoi An is a perfect example of the type of Active adventures that are in store for travellers in Vietnam. Pedalling past rice paddies and villages, guests meander through winding back-country roads to arrive at a picture-perfect village far off the beaten path. After meeting with some of the friendly local fishermen, they board a traditional ‘basket boat’ and drift onto the water. While learning how to operate these classic round boats, guests are then taught how to cast a fishing net the traditional way– a tricky task that the local fishermen happily assist with. Afterwards, they take a leisurely cruise up the river back to Hoi An Ancient City, taking in great views of the surrounding area along the way.
The mysterious ancient city of Angkor is among the world’s most iconic and rewarding travel destinations. The challenge in presenting Angkor to guests isn’t in impressing them, as the temples effortlessly do that on their own. The challenge is in finding a way to reveal the ancient city’s wonders in a uniquely memorable way. In keeping with the spirit of Active adventures, the Angkor Thom Scavenger Hunt turns a standard sightseeing tour on its head by imploring guests to actively participate in discovering the city’s fascinating past. After receiving a map and a set of clues, guests set off into the sprawling temple complex of Angkor Thom on a quest to capture eleven unique photos. By analysing statues and following the leads of answers revealed by them, guests are progressively led into the heart of the temple complex, learning fascinating and easy-to-miss tidbits of its history along the way.
As adventurous destinations go, Indonesia is gifted beyond imagination. Its volcano-studded landscapes, varied cultures, verdant rainforests and over 54,000km of coastline provide travellers options in spades. The key to EXO Active in Indonesia is balancing its abundance of options while maintaining a delicate balance of comfort and accessibility. A great example of this is the Leisurely Cycling from Kaliadem to Prambanan tour. Departing from the cultural heart of Indonesia, Yogyakarta, guests head to a village overlooking the billowing active volcano of Gunung Merapi. From there they cycle, mostly downhill, through dramatic volcanic scenery, stopping by charming rural villages along the way. The cycling tour concludes at the UNESCO-listed temple complex of Prambanan where guests take part in an insightful tour of its fascinating sites and learn about its history.
Man standing high on a hilltop looking out over A valley with mountains in the distance
As the least densely populated nation in Southeast Asia, Laos is a nature-lover’s dream destination. EXO Active’s offerings in Laos help travellers get in touch with the natural side of the country that makes it such a special travel destination. In a feel-good nod to both nature and the spirit of adventure, this engaging tour perfectly balances active exploration with pristine stretches of jungle and an unforgettable, close-up encounter with elephants. Unlike other tours which often exploit these majestic icons of Asia, this experience allows travellers to become intimately acquainted with them by earning their trust, bathing them, then joining them rather than riding them on a trek through the surrounding rainforest. It’s an exclusive experience unlike any other that those with a penchant for adventure and a love of nature will not soon forget.
Malaysia has one of the region’s richest offerings of natural and cultural attractions, EXO Active envisions the classic cycling tour by combining cultural and natural experiences. As the gateway to the world-renowned Bako National Park, Kampong Bako has some hidden secrets of it’s own. A Malay fishing village secluded from the mainland by the Bako River is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Home to crocodiles, mysterious mangrove jungle in its natural habitat, this is a great place to spot wild monkeys, migratory birds in a laidback village atmosphere. Be exposed to a local traditional fishing village way of life and enjoy culinary highlights such as food sampling and visiting a buzzing local market on this cycling adventure through the island’s lesser-seen and stunningly beautiful countryside.
The Japanese word ‘kaizen’ accurately reflects not only the mentality of its people, but also the country. Simply put, kaizen is the continuous quest for perfection. This can be seen in the way people approach the work that they do and the things they are passionate about, as well as the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Fuji and the architecture of Kyoto.
Japan’s ceaseless motion and elegance beckons travellers to get out, explore and to adopt this mentality of kaizen. Built around the principles of kaizen, this Tokyo Street Photography tour helps travellers do just that. Rather than simply taking in sights of the city’s highlights, travellers are taught the fundamentals of photography and learn to perfect their skills in the art. From hidden corners to some of the city’s biggest attractions, guests not only see Tokyo at its best, but take amazing images of it as well. It’s the perfect Japan experience and a nod to the culture that makes it such a special place.
When travellers envision Hong Kong, the first images to come to mind are towering modern skyscrapers and a buzzing metropolitan city. What many don’t know is that Hong Kong is a veritable paradise for those who love being in the outdoors. Just a short ride outside the city-centre exposes guests to an entirely different side of the island– one of rich emerald landscapes, towering mountains and gorgeous coastal scenery.
EXO Active’s Shek-o’s Dragon’s Back and Beaches tour is the perfect way to shatter preconceptions about Hong Kong. Starting from the 200- year-old village of Shek O, guests set out by taking a look at the roots of Hong Kong’s heritage. From there they head on an amazing 8km trek across the ‘Dragon’s Back’ for jaw-dropping views of lush natural scenery culminating in a panoramic view of Clear Water Bay and Stanley Beach. After taking in transformative views they then head to one of Hong Kong’s most pristine beaches for some rest and relaxation.
That’s 2 products every day that EXO Travel created in 2017!
From a swathe of brand new LUXE experiences, to engagement with local communities, insider access, hands on activities and adrenaline pumping adventures – EXO Travel has created 200 new products in 2017 that are sources of inspiration for travel to Asia.
With our specialised product teams in each of EXO’s destinations they are our local experts who live and breathe our destinations. They are constantly on the ground looking for the latest trends for authentic and innovative ideas to travel Asia.
Here’s a list of our favourite travel experiences and tours from 2017. Feel free to contact our destination experts for more information on anything travel Asia.
Dive into the rich traditions of Japan by discovering the world of kimonos. Assisted by the kimono expert and collector, dress up in the exquisite traditional garment and enjoy a cup of tea before exploring the collection of rare and unique kimonos.
Ascend a secret trail to Lempuyang temple to enjoy stunning panoramas of Mt. Agung and Bali’s east coast and receive a blessing by a Balinese Hindu priest. Enjoy a Megibung lunch served in the style of the Royal family of Karangasem. Visit the lavish Tirta Gangga Water Palace and take a dip into its pool.
Enjoy an action-packed day on the Padas River. Paddle white-water rafts in Grade 3-4 rapids along the crystalline river. Stop to swim and soak up the views before wrapping up the adventure with a delicious barbeque lunch on the river banks.
Head into the Chiang Rai countryside to Elephant Valley Sanctuary. Learn about the resident elephants from the site’s professional conservationists and help to improve the rescued elephant’s natural habitat by planting and harvesting crops. Spend some hands-on time with the elephants including a chance to feed the gentle giants in what is sure to be a memorable encounter.
Discover Cambodia’s beautiful countryside in Banteay Srei where a range of local activities can be seen. Begin with trying their noodles which is what the village is most well-known for. Make sure not to miss the village’s signature dish! Then visit a Landmine Museum which also serves as a rescue centre for landmine amputee children. Finally, take an ox cart ride through the countryside village and observe the routines of locals, backdropped by stunning views of paddy fields and sugar palm trees.
Embark on an adventure through the Mandalay region’s unique river environment while cruising aboard the MS Hintha. Visit the town of Sithe, in the Irrawaddy River Dolphin Conservation Area, and learn about traditional fishing methods from local fishermen through an NGO, the Harrison Institute. Wrap up the journey with visits to the towns of Sheinmaga and Mingun for a look at some of Myanmar’s most iconic historical attractions.
This specially led trip is a unique opportunity to see Hoi An from the perspective of an expert in Hoi An relics and historical heritage. While receiving an in-depth tour of this UNESCO Cultural Heritage site, learn intimate details about both the area’s history and the conservation efforts being made to preserve its heritage.
Meet with Prince Nithakhong Somsanith and see his private collection of arts and items from the Old Court of the Luang Prabang royal family. Devoting his time predominantly to traditional arts and education programs, this is an all exclusive insider access to meet and ask Prince Nith all about Laos traditional arts.
Thailand’s vibrant capital city of Bangkok, Cambodia’s Siem Reap and its ancient temples of Angkor, Vietnam’s ancient trading port of Hoi An and Japan’s mystical city of Kyoto. These classic destinations have been drawing in visitors from all over the globe for centuries, beckoning travellers with promises of adventure, thrilling cultures and exotic locales. But what is it that makes a destination classic? Is it the rich history, spiritual allure or exotic traditions? A combination of them all?
Whatever the attributes are, classic destinations consistently provide memorable experiences, `wow’ visitors and always live up to their hype. Regardless of time, modernisation, increased popularity or commercialism, these destinations stand true to their roots and never fail to offer visitors unforgettable experiences. So what are some of these favourite `classic’ journeys that never seem to tire?
THAILAND: VISIONS OF ANCIENT SIAM
Thailand paints a truly eclectic picture for travellers looking to experience classic Asia. On one side, days are filled with spiritual retreats, glistening temples, monks walking the streets and wild, exotic landscapes. On the other hand, itineraries can be filled with luxury stays, famous nightlife, world-class cuisine and some of the best entertainment in the region.
For visitors looking for the `classic’ trip to Thailand, our Holiday With a Twist captures the essence of this multifaceted nation. 10 days combine visits to both the capital city area and the far north, with additional stops in the country’s most famous historical corners.
Kicking off in Bangkok, visitors get a proper taste of what the City of Angels has to offer, with street food tours, a visit to the Royal Palace, temple excursions and traditional Thai massage therapy.
The experience carries on to the beautiful town of Kanchanaburi, with stops made to some of Asia’s most unique and memorable markets. Elephant experiences and iconic train rides are followed up by a stint in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya before heading to the northern reaches of the country. Three days in Chiang Mai highlight a different, more laid back face of Thailand, with ancient temple visits, hill tribe wanders, home cooked meals and some time in the surrounding national parks.
After trekking to the main village, enjoy a welcome by the village leader and experience an overnight inside one of the villager’s houses. A trip that combines natural beauty with immersive cultural experiences- definitely classic!
JAPAN: THE ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCE
Japan poses a unique conundrum to travellers. While it is ripe with amazing destinations from the northern tip of Hokkaido to the southern beaches of Okinawa, its classic visits are so captivating they can be hard to leave! Although EXO Japan offers tours all over this incredible country, our Essential Japan trip focuses on the truly classic experiences: Tokyo and Kyoto.
Nine days spread between these two landmark locales, sending guests on a journey of one classic experience after another. In Tokyo, visitors experience the beauty of Meiji Shrine, the eccentric Harajuku area and Geisha District of Asakusa, followed by optional day trips to Kamakura and Nikko. Onsen experiences and visits to Mt. Fuji follow in Hakone before the trip wraps up in Kyoto.
From the Nijo Castle and revered Buddhist temples to Zen rock gardens and the atmospheric Higashiyama District, visitors are treated to a complete Kyoto experience. The visit is topped off with a day trip to the ancient capital of Nara, which is the perfect ending to a classic journey.
CHINA: THE TRADITIONAL TRIFECTA
In an epic country such as China, there are seemingly endless destinations worth exploring. When it comes to the classics however, there are three spots that cannot be missed. Our Classical China with a Twist tour spends 10 days exploring these icons, highlighting the best offerings of each destination.
For many first time visitors to the `Middle Kingdom’, there’s no better place to start than the capital city. During a four-day stint in Beijing, visitors tour some of the city’s classic and contemporary offerings, rotating constantly between old and new. From Beijing’s hutongs and the Forbidden City to the Great Wall and Temple of Heaven, the first four days don’t miss a beat.
The experience continues onwards to Xi’an where the stoic Terracotta Army awaits. After visiting this world-famous archaeological find, the itinerary reveals just how unique Xi’an is as a destination. Cycling excursions and food tours expose the ancient ramparts and vibrant Xi’an Muslim Quarter before continuing the tour in Shanghai.
The last five days of the trip cover China’s contemporary marvels, displaying what makes Shanghai so special. Vintage bike rides and strolls along the Bund are offset by architectural sightseeing tours, inspiring museum visits and strolls through the once-infamous French Concession. For those seeking an itinerary that focuses on the best of China’s classic sites, this 10-day journey does the trick.
VIETNAM: A COMPREHENSIVE CLASSIC JOURNEY
Vietnam is unique in the fact that it’s hard to pinpoint just one `classic’ destination. At first glance, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi seem like the most likely candidates. Upon further review, however, the draws of the Mekong Delta, ancient port town of Hoi An, imperial offerings of Hue and natural marvels of Halong are far too memorable to ignore.
Our Classic with a Twist experience combines all these classic destinations and more within a comprehensive 12-day getaway. Starting in the north, travellers get acquainted with the capital city attractions before discovering the majestic beauty of Halong Bay and natural wonders of Tam Coc. The journey continues south along the coast to Hoi An and Hue for some unique heritage visits, before wrapping up in the deep south. From explorations across Ho Chi Minh City to the floating attractions of Cai Be in the Mekong Delta, the latter part of the journey wraps up some of Vietnam’s most intriguing offerings.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF CLASSIC: INDONESIA’S FLORES
It’s not always history and world-famous culture that make a destination classic. Sometimes Mother Nature plays her hand in the experience as well. In a destination such as Indonesia’s island of Flores, this is just the case. EXO Indonesia has crafted a 9-day journey that covers some of the area’s most mesmerising offerings- many of which visitors have never heard of before! From the kaleidoscopic lakes of Kelimutu and the pristine waters of 17 Islands National Park to the brilliant nature and wildlife of the more well-known Komodo National Park (home of the Komodo dragon), Flores has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.
In addition to its natural offerings, Flores also provides visitors some alternative cultural experiences. The journey includes plenty of local village encounters where guests can experience a truly distinct way of living seldom found elsewhere in Asia. Among the many village stops, perhaps the most memorable is Wae Rebo.
CAMBODIA: ANGKOR AND BEYOND
There’s no questioning that classic Cambodia is associated with the monuments of Angkor. These timeless structures are a testament to the Kingdom’s royal roots and formal grandeur and are a must-visit for any traveller to Cambodia. It would be an oversight, however, to think that Cambodia is only associated with these spectacular temples.
Our Cambodia In Depth tour not only covers some of the most famous and lesser-known temples of Angkor, but also sends guests into some of the other classic destinations that Cambodia offers. Extending from Tonle Sap and Battambang to Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, this 11-day journey helps show travellers just how much Cambodia has to offer beyond the marvels of Angkor.
Whether visiting for the first time or coming back to experience it all over again, Asia’s classic destinations are classics just for that reason: whatever the allures may be, there’s always something calling travellers to go back for more.
2017 has been a memorable one for us. With our revamped website and the launch of our invitation-only luxury travel brand, LUXE. This is thanks to a dedicated and hardworking EXO team and the support and trust that we have built with our friends and valued partners over the years.
2018 will bring us an exciting year as EXO gears up for its quarter-century celebrations – 25 years of showcasing our Asia as the most diverse and exciting region for travel in the world. Our Thailand office celebrates it’s 15-year anniversary too.
With two significant milestones ahead, we look forward to celebrating 2018!
Nearly two years in the making, the new EXOTravel.com is the fruit of our team’s technical savvy, unbridled creativity and ingenuity. Hard work and long hours also played a big role! As the travel industry evolves, so do we. Not just to keep up with changing times, but to stay ahead of the curve through innovation. By fusing a beautiful design with inspirational multimedia and a more user-friendly interface, our new website is not only easy on the eyes, but makes accessing our great products and services easier than ever. Beyond its visual appeal and ease of use, the new EXOTravel.com boasts other great features to streamline the overall experience.
EXO Connect is the next wave of progress to provide an elegant solution to EXO clients for online booking. The platform enables automatic online bookings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the click of a button. While the bookings are done automatically online, our EXO Connect team, based in Bangkok Head Office, works around the clock to ensure smooth booking processes.
Available for nine of our destinations (Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Japan), agents can book experiences (half and full day trips), accommodation, transfers, SIC (seat-in-coach) tours and cruises -all from the comfort of their desk and devices.
Furthermore, agents have access to a comprehensive tariff of all the aforementioned services, including all promotions and special offers, downloadable in Excel. It’s our most comprehensive online booking tool to date, offering agents a whole new way to book travel with EXO. In addition to the ability to make instant bookings and view tariffs, agents can also access financial statements and view both current and past bookings.
For agents who already have accounts set up with EXO Connect, they now have access to our online booking tool through the Agent Hub of the new website. For those wishing to get set up with an EXO Connect account, simply email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXO’s Live XML Feed
Our XML feed has been established for a few years now, providing a powerful and convenient way for clients to connect their systems directly with ours. The feed streamlines processes one step further from EXO Connect, enabling bookings to go directly from a client’s system into our system, meaning that the booking is registered without any extra user input required.
When it comes to booking accommodation, many of our hotels are available on instant confirmation, meaning that bookings can be made and confirmed immediately, even if they are made outside normal office hours.
For even more added value, there are no charges or fees for connecting to our XML. Clients who are interested in learning how to set up a connection can contact our team at email@example.com.
An exceedingly useful feature for our existing clients is the Agent Hub. The Agent Hub carries over and improves on all the tools and services that our previous TravelTrade website used, with easier access and improved load times, making for increased efficiency. Everything from product offerings and marketing materials to online booking capabilities and useful destination information are found within this area of the new site. Here are some highlights and key features that can be found within the Agent Hub:
– Product updates
– Access to marketing materials
– Trade Tools (webinars, FAM trip and trade show information)
– Construction & operational reports
– Promotions & useful information
The security of our agents’ information has always been paramount. That’s why we’ve gone through the necessary steps to further increase client security within the backend of our website. Accounts within the Agent Hub are personalised for each individual client, managed by our in-house teams in Bangkok Group Office.
Built with Clients in Mind
Our teams built the new EXO Travel website from the bottom up, keeping the user experience as the number-one priority. A smooth design is combined with hand-selected photos and EXO-curated video content, which helps to bring our destinations and offerings to life. Regarding EXO touring experiences, our product options are broken down into tour styles and destination offerings, each with their own unique tagging and filtering systems to refine the search. Breaking product down by regions, styles and duration, clients can search for and find exactly what they want with total ease. Looking for a 7-day Cambodia tour that hits the classic destinations? We’ve got you covered!
Launching Adventure, Events & LUXE
Another exciting new addition to our website are pages dedicated to EXO Adventure, EXO Events and LUXE by EXO. Adventure tours are broken down using a similar filtering system as EXO Travel product, with options to select tours by cycling, trekking, water, challenge, family and multi-activity. EXO Events displays our meetings, incentives, conferences and events offerings while also highlighting what makes our MICE experiences so unique. LUXE by EXO, our luxury travel brand, also has a place within the new website and highlights some of our specialist experiences across Asia.
Our hand-picked list of Asia’s most responsible accommodation options
At EXO Travel,we believe the privilege of living and operating amongst natural marvels and cultural heritage comes with the responsibility of preserving it for generations to come.
Furthermore, we strive to ensure that our business is beneficial for both the destinations we operate in and the communities living there. As such, we strongly commit ourselves to responsible tourism practices: minimising negative impacts and increasing positive ones, always keeping in mind how our activities and offerings affect the places we’re visiting.
As one of the region’s longest-standing, most reputable destination management companies, we believe our reputation helps us to influence the choices of consumers, practices of suppliers and the development of destinations. This unique position enables us to contribute to sustainable development and the protection of environmental and cultural resources in each of our destinations. Keeping responsible travel at the heart of our company, we observe the following seven sustainable commitments:
We commit to our people
We fight against corruption
We respect human rights
We care about the environment
We involve our supply-chain
We support community involvement & development
We care about our customers
Our Sustainability Teams
We have active, engaging sustainability teams in six of our destinations: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. In each of these destinations, our teams work tirelessly towards achieving our goals of sustainability. Each team’s main mission is to ensure that our responsible travel policy is implemented and to guarantee compliance with our Travelife Certification for Excellence in Sustainability in Tourism.
Our sustainable practices don’t just stop with our team members; each EXO office observes sustainable management practices as well, where energy and resources are carefully monitored, carbon offset programs are applied and sustainable purchasing is implemented. To further our commitment to sustainable travel, we put a strong emphasis on sharing information on responsible practices with our tour guides through training, our partners with our sustainability assessment process and with travelers through our `Tips for Responsible Travellers Booklet‘ published by EXO Foundation.
Sustainability Across the Chain
Just how far do our sustainable practices reach? All the way to our supply chain. EXO Travel encourages its hotel partners to actively implement and promote greater environmental, cultural and socially responsible conduct. Local community resources and biodiversity are to be respected, local sourcing is preferred and any use of endangered species is strictly banned.
Within our contracts, we include standard sustainability clauses and refuse to work with suppliers who are not complying with our fundamental responsible travel requirements (e.g. respect basic human rights, fight against child labour, sexual exploitation of children, etc.).
The Sustainability Assesment
To identify hotel partners that are truly committed to sustainability, our supplier assessment process follows strict guidelines. Self-assessment surveys are sent to our accommodation partners to prepare for site visits, and our sustainability teams conduct detailed onsite inspections to check the social and environmental responsibility of our hotel partners. Among the many questions included, we evaluate:
Has the hotel created good working conditions for their people and do they treat them fairly?
Does the hotel take actions to support the local community and promote local culture and heritage?
Does the hotel implement measures to minimise consumption of natural resources?
Does it train its people on environmental management and contribute to local conservation projects?
We also check how hotels communicate on responsible tourism with an emphasis on how they encourage their guests to be responsible tourists.
The purpose of these actions has two elements. First, we aim to raise awareness along our supply chain about what it means to be sustainable by following a step-by-step assessment that hotels can clearly understand. Inspecting a wide range of hotels allows us to share best practices with other hotels to encourage further sustainable development within our destinations.
Second, we reward our partners who have shown commitment to social and/or environmental sustainability by strongly promoting them with clear information about the actions they are undertaking to run a responsible business.
Each hotel is rated on a scale of 1 – 3 for being Eco-Friendly and Socially Aware: ‘1’ being basic, ‘3’ being the best.
Mark is the new General Manager of EXO Japan. He first came to Japan as a university student in 1981. Since then, his career within Japan and Asia has ranged from hospitality and tourism to marketing, operations, contracting and revenue management. His broad range of experience in senior management roles contributes greatly to his ability to lead EXO Japan, while his extensive knowledge and expertise of Japan provides the local knowledge and expertise that defines us as a company.
YOU’VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN JAPAN. HOW HAS THE COUNTRY CHANGED FROM THE TIME YOU FIRST VISITED UNTIL NOW?
When I first came to Japan 35 years ago, I couldn’t find a 24-hour ATM, avocados, a decent sporting goods store or a cheap matinee. That has all changed for the better. These days, Japan is incredibly convenient. I can now pay for any form of public transportation with an electronic money card that automatically tops itself up. At convenience stores, I can buy anything from fresh food and high quality coffee to concert, ski lift and sumo tickets. I can even ship items, pay bills and fax things there. But some things never change. The politeness of the people, crowded trains, traditional foods and festivals Japan is famous for, and how safe you feel in here. These things have always been and remain distinct attributes of Japan.
“We are now in the process of stepping in to fill this gap by developing a dedicated Adventure department.”
AS AN ADOPTED ‘LOCAL,’ WHAT IMPRESSES YOU MOST ABOUT JAPAN THAT TRAVELLERS MAY NOT NOTICE AT FIRST?
Japanese culture centres around a concept known as `Yuzuri-ai’ which involves a shared notion that yielding to others is for the greater good of all. This collective mindfulness manifests itself in the daily lives of Japanese in fascinating and incredible ways. A perfect example is driving in Japan. Unlike other places in the world, where honking is typically seen as an aggressive or accusatory action, in Japan it’s more commonly used as a way to let someone know it’s okay to go first or to give pedestrians a polite warning. Another great example of how unique the Japanese mindset is can be seen in how far locals will go to help strangers out. It’s not uncommon to see locals walking strangers to their destination because they’re not able to communicate how to get there verbally. As an `adopted local,’ I have also brought this selfless mindset into my own life, and feel like I’m a better person because of it.
WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DOES JAPAN FACE WITH REGARD TO THE GROWTH OF ITS TOURISM SECTOR?
Japan has the goal of attracting 40 million foreign tourists by 2020. Unfortunately, these growth targets often overlook the need for sufficient infrastructure to support them such as new hotels, language and cultural training for locals and foreign-friendly services at restaurants, cultural events and attractions.
Japan is now seeing a growing number of repeat visitors who want to explore off the beaten track areas they missed before. The country has an incredible array of offerings for adventure, sports, nature and culture. Much of it is completely off the radar, which is extremely appealing to travellers looking to experience a unique side of Japan. The thing that Japan still needs to sort out is the logistics needed to open up this vast, untapped tourism potential.
HOW HAS EXO ADAPTED ITS PRODUCTS AND OPERATIONS IN JAPAN TO COPE WITH THIS CHALLENGE?
We are now in the process of stepping in to fill this gap by developing a dedicated Adventure department. This will enable us to provide the expertise, knowledge, support and logistics necessary to open an entirely new world of adventure touring in Japan. Whether it be backcountry skiing, climbing Mt Fuji, cycling through Hokkaido, diving in Okinawa or rafting in Shikoku, we will soon be able provide clients and their customers with the adventure they seek in Japan.
IN YOUR MIND, WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE THING VISITORS MUST SEE OR DO IN THE COUNTRY?
One of the most unique things visitors should try is the art of `Hadaka Tsukiai,’ which means `to socialise in the nude.’ This is a deeply ingrained practice that dates back over a thousand years and is an excellent way to connect with `Old Japan.’ There are many natural hot springs in Japan, all with different therapeutic mineral contents, locales and unique attributes. The experience of seeing people and being seen in the nude isn’t as offputting as one would think and, after visitors get a feel for the respectful local customs which are guided by well drawn out rules of conduct, it proves to be an incredibly rewarding cultural experience. It’s definitely a must-try in Japan.