Meet the Belgian luxury travel veteran with over 30 years in hospitality

CEOs can be notoriously guarded, but Filip Boyen doesn’t fit the mould. Instead, the Belgian-born chief executive officer of Small Luxury Hotels Of The World (SLH) is charismatic, confident and brimming with personality. When he's not sharing his many hilarious travel anecdotes from the road, his sudden bursts of laughter almost always gets everyone around the table laughing too.

As CEO of SLH, Filip has a demanding travel schedule that takes him all over the world, with more than 500 independent boutique hotels in over 80 countries worldwide to oversee. In our latest edition of How I Travel, he shares what’s left on his bucket list and his top tip for getting great service at your hotel:

Last trip?

Australia and New Zealand. We took two press trips out to visit the hotels and we also had the luxury travel show, Luxperience. It was a busy two weeks but unbelievable. It was my first time there and we visited Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, the Gold Coast (where I skydived!) and the wine country.

Next trip?

Portugal, where we’re launching the SLH cookbook. We have about 12 chefs from the hotels coming and they’ll all have their own cooking stations, and I’ll be cooking as well. After that, it's ILTM in Cannes, and then ski season starts in early December.

See also: How I Travel Ft. Sonia Cheng Of Rosewood Hotels 

What’s on your bucket list?

Alaska. I want to do one of those cruises, because I love animals, wildlife, and I would love to be close to them. A few of my friends have said that it was life-changing, so that trip is going to happen.

What do you love most about traveling?

The people and culture. I’ve lived in eight or nine countries—I’ve lost count—but what I enjoy most is meeting different people, finding out what makes them tick, and their outlook on life and travel. The nuances of different countries and how they bring in the local culture and character into their hotels.

One place you’d visit over and over again?

The Dolomites in Italy—I’ll never get tired of that. They’ve created such a huge ski area, with over 1,400 kilometres of ski runs, that in principle you could stay there for a month and do different slopes every day.

Three things you always travel with?

A good book, a moisturiser (to fight dehydration on the plane) and my Bose headphones that are noise-cancelling and wireless.

See also: How I Travel Ft. Marcel Thoma Of The Upper House

What do you normally read on the plane?

I love spy novels, so anything by Tom Clancy—the ex-KGB thing really gets me going and I just can’t put them down.

Favourite travel companion?

SLH's PR manager of APAC, Juliana Tan [whom I skydived with]. She never stops surprising me with her quirky character.

Window or aisle?

Aisle usually, so that I can get up.

See also: How I Travel Ft. Simon Westcott Of Luxe City Guides

Favourite travel app?

The one I use for business travel is Tripit, which is great because I hate paperwork.

Your best travel tip?

When you walk into a hotel, tip the concierge immediately. Introduce yourself, tell him how long you’re staying and give him a tip. From then on, life becomes so much easier, because of course, they’ll be expecting more.

Any tips on overcoming jetlag?

Adjust straight away to the place you are going. I always change my watch immediately when I get on the plane and then I adapt. If I know I’m going to arrive in the evening, I try to stay awake on the plane.

What, in your opinion, is the latest travel trend?

Back to simplicity, formality is dead. People are looking for authenticity and honesty more than anything, so be meaningful. What attracts people are characters and interesting personalities—that’s what memories are made of.

Follow Filip Boyen on Instagram @filipboyen, @smallluxuryhotels and @hongkongtatler for more travel inspiration.

All photos shot on location at Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge.

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