6 APAC / South East Asia Business Awards 2021 , Best Boutique Travel Agency – Singapore: SONNENKIND From its inception in early 2018, boutique travel agency Sonnenkind has been an inspiring success story – serving leading global brands and HNWI fromacross the world, attracting the attention of top-level magazines and winningmultiple awards such as “Best Boutique Travel Agency – Singapore”. Founder & CEO Sonja Piontek shares what it took to build such an impressive brand in such a short timeframe. What is the secret to Sonnenkind’s success? At Sonnenkind we don’t just organise tours – we create unforgettable and meaningful travel experiences. Any agency can book a posh hotel or a fancy restaurant but arranging to go lobster-fishing by helicopter and then setting up a champagne BBQ on top of a mountain peak is something no client will ever forget. Or staying overnight in a real prison cell from the 1860s, celebrating a “tent warming party” with the Mongolian nomads, going horse riding with a herd of giraffes whilst the African sun is setting or preparing a traditional maize meal with the Himba ladies in their kraal village before taking off on a thrilling off-road excursion and overnight stay in the vastness of the world’s oldest sand desert, the Namib. I personally take great pride in saying that any tour developed and executed by Sonnenkind is way more than simply “a tour”. It is the safari of a lifetime, a totally unforgettable experience and deeply touching journey into another world. These are experiences you can’t just book anywhere. What do your clients normally say about your tours? In the beginning they are often a bit hesitant as most of our clients are used to the more ordinary (luxury) tours. Same goes for our corporate clients who often request things like “shopping trip to Dubai” for their VIP clients or incentive tours. When we then suggest to take the group to unique places such as Namibia or Mongolia and offer a real brand experience it normally takes some time for them to digest the idea. However, when we share testimonials that proof how incredibly successful similar concepts have been for other top-level brands and how overwhelming the feedback from the participants was, they are sold. For me the most beautiful moments are when clients approach me with a huge smile in their face and say: “I have never experienced anything like this before.” or “This is the most amazing trip I have ever taken.” What countries do you specialise in? In order to offer such unusual and unique experiences we focus on countries where we have an extremely good network and vast experience that allow us to create experiences and get access to places others wouldn’t be able to include in their tours. For example, when we pitched for the big regional off-road drive event Apr21361 for Land Rover Asia Pacific in New Zealand, Sonnenkind won against six local Kiwi agencies. Why? Because we had the most compelling concept, and we were the only ones that had access to the most incredible off-roading terrain in the country. We simply make things happen that others often don’t even think about. And the countries we take most of our clients to are New Zealand, Namibia, Mongolia, Germany, and central Europe. Who are your typical clients? As I said before, we serve HNWI as well as corporate clients. For the individual travellers we organise specially developed tours like e.g. a birthday trip to Europe for a group of successful entrepreneurs that included a private VIP race track training at Nürburgring and a breakfast meeting with some high level German CEOs. For corporate clients we mainly organise brand building tours for their top tier clients and media representatives as well as incentive trips for their highest achieving employees. Our first corporate client was Leica Camera – the world’s most prestigious camera brand - they have remained a loyal client since. Additionally, we have added big global names such as Land Rover, Lamborghini, Cycle & Carriage or Ultradent. I would say that the level of brands nicely reflects the quality of our work. What are your objectives when developing those unusual tours? Our objectives are very simple. For the participants the tours always need to be an unforgettable experience – and we take pride in delivering exactly that. For the corporate clients it is the ROI. Having a strong corporate background, I know only too well, how important it is to get tangible results and a proper return on your investment. This is not only our objective but more importantly the promise we give our clients! How do you get media coverage in publications such as Portfolio Magazine, World Travel Magazine, BusinessTimes or even National Geographic? The media are always looking for great content, fresh new ideas and stories that suit their publication and that their readers will find appealing. If you can deliver exactly that and combine it with high level photography, there is a good chance that the media will feature you and your work. Obviously, you need to have the proof that what you do is relevant speaking about.