In Conversation With: Henry Cookson

Henry Cookson of Cookson Adventures took part in the inaugural Business of Design Summit in 2018, in the excellence in experience panel. The panel looked at key trends in luxury travel and the importance of a tailored experience for UNHWI. As an accomplished adventurer, photographer and polar guide, Henry runs his own bespoke ultra-luxury travel company that specialises in taking people to the remotest parts of the world. We decided to sit down with Henry to gain some insights into the luxury travel sector for 2019.

In your opinion, what do UHNWI clients look for in travel these days?

Our guests are looking for ‘world-first’ experiences and these are increasingly difficult to find on a planet that’s being explored more and more. I created Cookson Adventures with the vision of providing these unique and elegant adventures to the truly curious, and it takes around the clock curiosity and attention to detail. Scientists, archaeologists, conservationists, wildlife experts – it takes a worldwide team to make life-changing adventures possible.

We’ve also noticed there’s more of an appetite for conservation experiences and the Polar Regions, These are both areas we’ve been particularly invested in since the company’s conception, and has always run as a thread in all of our adventures.

Who is the typical clientele on your trips? What are they looking to get out of a Cookson trip?

Aside from all being highly successful individuals, there is no set demographic shared between our guests. Our adventures are all unique and completely tailored, so they can take on many shapes and forms. Whether it is a year-long sabbatical experience, deep-sea diving or conservation projects deep within the Colombian jungle, we refine every detail to match the character of the client.

To that end, our knowledge must span all corners of the globe through an incredible network of worldwide experts. Scientists, archaeologists, marine biologists, conservationists, award-winning photographers and many more, contribute to the innovative approach that we take to developing fresh ideas.

Our clients are looking for the best, most unique trip possible and that is what we give them.

What trends are you seeing in the luxury travel industry for 2019?

Awareness of global warming and the effects that tourism is having on the planet has increased in the last decade. We can’t deny that the tourism industry has played a part in that, so we are proud that conservation and responsibility are always threads that run through every adventure we create. We always leave the place in a better state than when we found it in. For instance, we organised a crucial conservation project in the Galápagos Islands, rehoming 250 juvenile giant tortoises via helicopter.

However, what truly sets us on a path of our own is our track history of coordinating logistically challenging adventures in some of the most remote corners of the planet, from dual helicopter-yacht operations in Antarctica to piloting some of the world’s most advanced submersibles during wildlife research missions.

What should hoteliers do differently to capitalise on these trends?

Well, any hotel looking to increase its sustainability long term will be catering to a growing demand. Tourism always influences destinations, so the more everyone in the travel industry can do – including hotels, big and small – to help and encourage guests to take care of the locations that they are visiting is a positive aspect.

Through your website it is clear that you have repositioned yourself as non-luxury travel company but rather make an association with memories. Why have you done this?  Is this your ‘redefinition’ of luxury?

In a way, yes it is. But I would go further and say that Cookson Adventures’ whole ethos surrounds the expansion or redefinition of what ‘luxury’ truly means. Our entire brand identity is based on the truly unique, the completely bespoke. Our trips aren’t just holidays. They are the adventures that our guests will always remember.

Some days, most of the office can be working on a single client’s trip. Our truly meticulous approach results in adventures that are unique, they belong to the client and forge these unforgettable memories.

What has been one of your most memorable trips?

I’m fortunate enough to say that this is a very hard question for me to answer. While perhaps I am best known for my polar expeditions, I have had a long-standing love affair with Africa, and have had many memorable trips in this continent as well.

Certainly one of my most memorable was during a 1,100mile expedition to the Antarctic Pole of Inaccessibility. At our destination we found a bust of Lenin, fixed to the chimney of a Russian-built hut, a reminisces from a previous Soviet expedition in 1958. And of course I could never forget diving with 40ft long whale sharks.

What trips do Cookson Adventures have in the pipeline for this year?

We are working on a number of very exciting adventures this year. While we can’t diverge much of the details, each of them are being designed to respond to a real thirst for learning and the desire to give back to the planet. State-of-the-art submersibles are important assets to these adventures, as they’re allowing us to explore parts of the ocean previously unvisited and learn more about the life that inhabits them.

What are your five essential items when going on any trip?

My cameras. On any adventure I would usually take two SLRs, a GoPro and a drone for those moment-capturing shots. And, of course, my well-stamped passport.

For more information on Cookson Adventures or to enquire about expedition possibilities, visit: