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Souvenir Secrets: Why You Buy Them And What Top Travel Execs Love Best - http://travelporn.info | luxury travel sites

April 20, 2018 8:40 pm
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Photo credit: © Laura Manske

We all have carried souvenirs home from our travels. They are often trinkets, sometimes more meaningful takeaways and occasionally substantial investments. Our desire to garner mementos is strong. Souvenir, a sweet new book by Rolf Potts, is a little gem (easily tucked into a jacket pocket) filled with big insights — the newest in publisher Bloomsbury’s book series called Object Lessons, which delves into the hidden life of ordinary things. Souvenir explores our passions for such possessions and why we are compelled to transport items from one spot to another, reminding us of an inspired moment, locale, adventure, voyage, person, emotion. Even a rock or piece of driftwood can symbolize a personal on-the-go narrative. Souvenir‘s introduction, titled “An Embarrassment of Eiffel Towers,” is a delight to ponder, particularly for travelers like me, who have fallen in love with a faraway place so much so that accumulating a collection is a riveting recourse for keeping the away journey ever near. I own 11 decorative Eiffel Towers in varied sizes (from 2 to 17 inches tall) and materials (glass, wire, metal, porcelain), all of which are elegantly lined up in a row atop my piano. Each Lilliputian tower represents a visit to the City of Light. With glee, I anticipate adding another tower soon, thus beholding a dozen, after I touch down again in Paris later this spring. How many artsy Eiffel Towers do I need? That’s like wondering whether I will ever have enough experiences of Paris itself. Impossible, s’il vous plaît. Souvenirs recall a spell cast, a dazzling destination magic to which we have been drawn. A talisman welcomed home.

In the spirit of appreciating souvenirs, I reached out to leading travel company executives to discover which keepsakes they deem dear. Here, their fascinating and fun replies:

J. ALLEN SMITH, President and Chief Executive Officer of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts:

Best Souvenir  “With four children, I tried to find souvenirs that would be meaningful to them. Ultimately, I settled on snow globes, something my youngest daughter adored. I gained an appreciation for the idiosyncratic expression of a place’s identity that was represented through a snow globe. Soon I was caught by the snow globe bug and loved the process of seeking out those that were unique and well-made (as there are many cheap ones). Perhaps my favorite is one I acquired in Abu Dhabi. While the merchant referred to it as a snow globe, it was in fact a sand globe. The glass sphere contained sand and depicted a desert scene with camels — naturally there was no water and no ‘snow’ when it was shaken!”

Cool Collection  “Our snow globe collection is displayed on shelves in my daughter’s bedroom.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “Given my very extensive travel, this is a way for me to share something about the places I’ve been and to facilitate a conversation with my children about what makes each location special.”

JASON MONTAGUE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Regent Seven Seas Cruises:

Best Souvenir  “I purchased two Murano glass swans for my wife when we visited Venice for the first time. It was just the two of us in a private taxi traveling through the canals and over to the Venetian island of Murano, where we watched a master glass artist making his creations. Incredibly fascinating. Before we left the island, we searched through their store and found two perfect swans — a favorite of my wife — so that was an easy decision. They are displayed in the center of our house and they always bring a smile to my face. This souvenir takes me back to that first time we visited Venice. What a romantic place.”

Cool Collection  “There isn’t one thing we look for. It doesn’t always have to be expensive. Our goal is to find something special just to us.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “Traveling is an amazing experience. Part of that experience is in the memories you create. I find it rewarding to get something that serves as a wonderful reminder of all those memories. When I see them, it reminds me of times I had with my family and friends.”

BRETT TOLLMAN, Chief Executive Officer of The Travel Corporation:

Best Souvenir  “An incredible Japanese kitchen knife that I bought in a small store in Tokyo, situated inside the large, open market there. I love cooking at home for family and friends, so the knife is a very practical souvenir for me, which I use often. It is a great souvenir because I had never seen one like it before; you can only buy it in Japan. Every time I pick it up, I am reminded of one of my favorite countries to visit.”

Cool Collection  “I very much respect the importance of leaving a small footprint and recognizing and following local customs. During the more than 23 years that my wife and I have been married, we have always collected a small memento of each place we visit to enhance the fond memories. What we found easiest to collect have been innocuous stones or seashells that we’ve picked up on our travels. These we store carefully at home. Every stone or shell looks different…each of them represents a journey we took together where we met new people (some of whom have become life-long friends), created wonderful memories, tasted new foods, understood and embraced new cultures and all the other joys and benefits of travel. We have always been very careful to never take or remove anything that we weren’t meant to — or anything that would be disrespectful or inappropriate.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “Buying souvenirs that are meaningful, useful and admired for their craftsmanship or artistic value recognizes and supports local artisans and craftspeople, which in turn also directly benefits their families. Paintings from indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand and Africa, beautiful sculptures, local books, paper goods, cooking ingredients and materials and clothing are things we curate and keep on display at home. I also love the opportunity to meet and speak with artisans and craftspeople, learning about them and how I can pay them to customize gifts that I bring home to others. For example, last year I went to Kenya with my family to build a school for the WE.org charity. I met some of the women from their enterprise, who do beautiful bead work. Subsequently, I sent them 10 pairs of Birkenstock sandals on which they created beautiful beadwork. Then I gave these sandals as holiday gifts to family and friends.”

RUDI SCHREINER, President, Co-Founder and Co-Owner of AmaWaterways:

Best Souvenir  “One of my favorite souvenirs is a sunset watercolor painting of temples and pagodas that I bought from two young artists while visiting the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar. I used to love to paint when I was younger, so I really enjoy buying paintings directly from local artists when traveling. Local art is one of the best ways to capture the vibrancy of the people and the country. With my wife, Kristin Karst [AmaWaterways Executive Vice President, Co-Founder, Co-Owner], we were in Bagan visiting some of the 2,229 remarkable temples and pagodas. I first spotted the painting for sale by two young artists while visiting one temple. Kristin and I both liked the painting very much, but I hesitated as we just didn’t have time to stop. We continued on our visit, but I kept thinking about the painting and regretted not buying it. Awhile later, after climbing a very narrow staircase to the top of yet another temple, to our surprise the smiling faces of the same two artists appeared with our much-admired painting in hand. After a very short price negotiation (they wanted $40, but Kristin only had $35 in cash), we happily concluded the sale and I thanked the young men for their pro-active salesmanship!”   

Cool Collection  The beauty of buying the work of local artists is that there is such a range of mediums — I never have to restrict myself to one type. The art is displayed throughout our home. I do change it up from time to time. I sometimes give artwork to my children, who share my love of art.

Why Bring a Thing Home? I don’t take a lot of photos when I travel, but I have a great visual memory and art seems to bring back so many vivid images. It really lets me relive the moments and the people I met along the way.” 

ROELAND VOS, President and Chief Executive Officer of Belmond:

Best Souvenir  “A well-thumbed, authentic Italian cookbook, found buried in a market stall in the center of Florence. It is a treasure trove of classic Italian recipes. Each meal created from it transports me back to the great culinary pleasures of Italy — what we at Belmond call the art of Savoir Vivre or Good Living.”

Cool Collection  “Like travel, books can take you on a journey of exploration without limitation. I try to immerse myself in the local culture, history and cuisine of each place I visit — through reading books and, wherever possible, taking a cooking class to discover the most traditional food. I have quite a collection of cookbooks today.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “I collect books, particularly cookbooks, because they help me to recreate wonderful food and remember exceptional travel experiences back home. And that is exactly what a souvenir should do.”

SHERWIN BANDA, President of African Travel Inc.:

Best Souvenir  “A piece of traditional clothing from each destination that I visit. Traditional clothing is colorful and reflects the energy and tradition of each country. Africa is so vibrant and special.”

Cool Collection  “I love to buy a gift for my son everywhere I travel. This is great enjoyment for me. He places the items in his room and has fantastic collections of stuffed animals, hand-crafted toys and hand-made musical instruments. He will learn about the history of the places as he gets older.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “It is an incredible memory of the culture of the people and places.”

CHRISTINE DUFFY, President of Carnival Cruise Line:

Best Souvenir  “I collect Starbucks coffee mugs from around the world. I have approximately 50 mugs so far, but Starbucks has 94 different destination mugs so I still have a lot more to collect.  Actually, I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea with milk — the British way — every morning from one of these mugs! I pick a mug based on my mood and the colors on the mug…some are sunny and bright like Miami and Los Angeles.” 

Cool Collection  “I keep my mugs in kitchen cabinets at my condo in Miami and my home in Philadelphia, but I display them on trays when entertaining. They are great for soups or for serving ice cream sundaes or other desserts. They stir up great conversations about my travels around the world. The mugs are stackable so they don’t take up too much room. Each one has a unique artist design that reflects the skyline or sights from a city or country. The inside of each mug is painted brightly in a different color.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “When I travel for business, I don’t have time to shop for souvenirs. But I can always get to a Starbucks or find one at the airport on my way home. I collect these mugs as reminders of all the great places I have the privilege of visiting. I’ve also started getting them as gifts from my kids when they travel, which I love.”

CRAIG REID, President and Chief Executive Officer of Auberge Resorts Collection:

Best Souvenir  “I love to pick up souvenirs on my travels. It’s hard to single out one as a favorite, as I love them all. I prefer to buy local art or crafts that speak to artisans’ creativity and the richness of the culture.”

Cool Collection   “Among my most treasured pieces are Native American pottery from New Mexico, pottery from Mexico and wood carvings from Costa Rica and Nicaragua.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “I am heading to Costa Rica in two weeks. I will be buying a hand-carved Boruca mask, about which I am extremely excited. I will visit the artist’s village. I love these masks because each is unique, expressive, beautiful and will no doubt provoke interest and questions by those who see it back home. Most important, it will be a reminder of everything that is so special about that region of the country.”

EDIE RODRIGUEZ, Americas Brand Chairman of Ponant Cruises

Best Souvenir  “The best souvenir from all of my travels was obtained more than 30 years ago on my first trip to Israel. It was (and still is) a granite tablet with The 10 Commandments on it — so special to me because it is simply the way I choose to live my life. I keep it on my kitchen counter and it is a daily reminder.”

Cool Collection  “Chess sets that are unique to each country. My favorites are ones from Kenya and from Italy. I have a game room in my home. The chess sets are displayed in there, where they are always ready to be played.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  “Buying a souvenir means to me that I am carrying a memory home. It is in a physical form concurrent with the memories that are in my heart and mind: when and where I acquired that souvenir. The souvenirs always warm my heart and bring a smile to my face. Those memories are what I value the most.”

BETH NEUMANN, Chief Executive Officer of Starboard Cruise Services:

Best Souvenir  “My favorite is a Cartier Ballon Bleu timepiece that I bought onboard an incredible new cruise ship in China. I had not purchased (or worn) a watch in more than 10 years. The trip was fantastic. I was learning about China, spending time at the ship’s top restaurants and onboard entertainment with friends and colleagues. I walked into the ship’s Cartier boutique and immediately connected with the boutique manager. Not only was she in the know about the best experiences on the ship, but her passion for the art of Swiss watchmaking intrigued me. She invited me to a special intimate dinner celebrating Cartier and watchmaking, where I learned about its history and was even able to try using Swiss watchmaking tools myself, reassembling a watch. After that, I could not help but purchase a watch to commemorate my journey in China. Every time I look at it on my wrist (or am asked about it), I remember the joy of that trip! It also serves as an inspiration for what we do every day in our business.”

Cool Collection  “I collect jewelry from everywhere I travel. Jewelry is a special memento that I can wear. Jewelry is also made by artisans; their stories about their inspirations connect me to the destinations. Jewelry is an art form that crosses cultures, yet evokes the essence of each culture. My purchases range from Bulgari in the Mediterranean, Tiffany in NY and John Hardy in Asia to local artisans in South America, Alaska and the Caribbean.”

Why Bring a Thing Home?  A souvenir represents the memory and celebration of the experience. Each time I look at a piece of jewelry acquired on a trip, I bask in the joy of that vacation, the family and friends with whom I traveled, the fun, the celebration and the discovery of new people, places and things.”