At ICS Travel Group, we know that having fresh, creative tours and excursions is one way that we distinguish ourselves, and provide you with exciting travel for your customers.
Heading up our efforts to bring you new and interesting travel is our Director of Product, Dominik Schaufler. We sat down with Dominik asked him for insider tips, secrets, and the latest trends and strategies.
Dominik, please tell us a little about your background. How long have you been in the travel industry and why did you join the travel industry?
I have been in the travel industry for almost 10 years. Six years of this time has been in Asia. I always had a passion for travel, so I thought making my hobby be work-related would be ideal.
What languages do you speak and where did you learn?
Apart from German, my mother tongue, I of course speak English and a good level of Thai. If there is another language I would like to learn in the future, it would be Spanish.
Where is your favorite destination? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite destinations are the beaches of Southeast Asia. I like those smaller islands with white sandy beaches, coconut trees and which are not yet commercially developed. In Thailand I like Koh Kood (“koh” is the Thai word for “island”). Amongst other islands outside of Thailand, my favorites are Bohol in the Philippines and Phu Quoc in Vietnam.
Aboard the “Circular Train” in Yangon, Myanmar
Why is being a Director of Product a good fit for you?
“Product” in the travel industry is a great way to be creative and I like to explore new places and enhance my knowledge of the destinations and offers. Getting to know the people, cuisine and culture of the different countries in Southeast Asia is one of the best parts of the job.
What is your philosophy regarding product creation?
Our philosophy in terms of product creation is definitely to operate most – or all – services ourselves. This approach gives us and our partners a unique selling factor as well as better control over the quality of the product when it operates.
What advice would you give to tourists who are coming to Southeast Asia for the first time?
To maximize the experience of the trip, it would definitely make sense to give the planning of a trip to a person who knows the area very well and who can provide more tips and insight.
What trends do you see in hotels, destinations, and traveller demographics?
We see a very strong demand for boutique hotels with local character and for budget chic/hip hotels with a good price tag…those kind of little gems that are only found by word of mouth.
We also see a strong demand for experiences/venues that can be accessed on an exclusive basis and those experiences that include meetings or encounter with locals, artists, experts and specialists…people who can provide more comprehensive information in their area of expertise than a regular tour guide can provide.
What trends do you see in traveller demographics?
Today, travelers across many different demographics want – more than ever – to enrich themselves with cultural experiences and to meet local people. We also see an increasing segment who are seeking to improve their employability when they return home.
What “up and coming” destinations are on your radar screen?
Cities in Cambodia like Kampot and Battambang have good potential to get more awareness in the future. They are both shining examples of rich architectural heritage, a beautiful riverside location and are surrounded by amazing countryside.
Battambang is a creative city with an interesting arts scene, the home of the Phare Ponleu Circus and predestined routes for cycling excursions. Kampot has wonderful, colonial architecture and is the perfect spot to soak up rural Cambodian life in a peaceful and relaxing environment. That feeling is what we try to represent in our newly introduced tour “Urban and Rural Kampot.”
What is one destination where not many people go, but you think they should?
Well, I think now is the right time to visit Myanmar. When the country first opened up in 2012 after five decades of army-imposed hibernation everyone wanted to go and the prices went up quite drastically. Today a Myanmar holiday again offers a great value for the money due to a larger range of accommodations which have been added over the last two years.
What are some of the initiatives you’ve begun since joining ICS?
One of my first projects was to consolidate our product offerings and also to create and add our new designation “ICS Encounters” to the portfolio. The “Encounters” represent our signature tours within our main destinations and cities that are on the traveler’s radar. Here we like to provide our guests on the ground with closer cultural interaction for a more authentic and memorable experience in our destinations.
We’ve also just introduced a new “Inspection Blog” site which gives us the opportunity to better share proprietary feedback on certain products both internally and with our partners.
We’re currently re-working on an upgrade of our “Style” line which is the premium brand within ICS. Within Style we like to offer luxury and boutique resorts with unique character, bespoke tours, indulgent experiences and highly personalised service for the discerning traveller in search of their perfect Asian adventure.
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines