Charlotte Evans has been a busy bee since leaving the family pub back in England. The publishing director of the Condé Nast Johansens magazine and guide has been constantly travelling, stopping off in Portugal where childhood memories mean she’s sure to return whenever she can.
If ever there was a professional traveller, Charlotte Evans is it. Responsible for one of the world’s best-known luxury tourism guides, Condé Nast Johansens (johansens.com), this 42-year-old English woman circumnavigates the globe for business and pleasure. She’s lost count of how many places she’s been but still enjoys “everything connected to travel”.
Her involvement in the tourism market began in the town of Amersham, in Buckinghamshire. Her parents ran the local pub, which dated back to the 16th century, and, from an early age, she and her brother washed dishes, waited tables and did other jobs that gave them an insider’s view of the business, which would later help her in her professional life.
Charlotte recalls that her parents told her not to go into the family business. “They thought I should get out and see the world and, at the same time, be able to support myself. That was important for them.” She studied Spanish and history at Oxford, and as soon as she finished her course, the dozens of CVs she sent to different companies led to an interview in 1995 at Johansens, a company with a small hotel guide set up by Derek Johansen in 1983, which had been bought by the Daily Mail Group. “They hired me and I liked it so much that I’ve stayed ever since”. The current publishing director of Condé Nast Johansens explains that the company was about to launch the European hotel and spa guide when they invited her to take charge of sales for the Portuguese and Spanish market. Portugal wasn’t new to her. Her uncle had lived in Cascais in 1976 and Charlotte had been there on holiday.
She spent almost three years working on the Iberian Peninsula and a new challenge. Next up was Australia, where she set up a team of hotel inspectors. “Great fun. I love Australia, but it was hard work. I don’t know if I could do it now because I went there every six weeks.” Two years on the other side of the world before Condé Nast bought Johansens from the Daily Mail Group.
Charlotte recalls that the Daily Mail developed the concept as an international hotel guide, first in Europe, then, a year later, in South America and the Caribbean. However, she adds that “the Daily Mail is a news group and the guide, albeit interesting, wasn’t going in the right direction”. It was a luxury brand, and her predecessor, Andy Warren, director of Johansens for 20 years, organised the transition from the Daily Mail to Condé Nast, which occurred in September 2001. Andy Warren “was happy with the sale because he realised that the guide needed a group that would take it further and develop it”. She remembers that the first thing to be done was to change the brand to Condé Nast Johansens. And she highlights, with a certain pride, that of all of the magazines belonging to the Condé Nast group, apart from Traveller, Johansens is one of the few to bear the brand’s name.
Andy Warren retired in December 2012 and Charlotte applied for the job “because I lived and breathed the company, I had an operational past, I understood the perspective of the hotel owners, the readers and the business”. She explains that here are two types of customers: readers, who stay at the hotels and spas, and the hotels, who pay an annual fee to appear in the guide – between 3,500 and 10 thousand euros. “I have to keep both happy”, she says while believing that, “what matters is the reader”. “Without their trust, without their loyalty, they wouldn’t stay at the hotels. And then the hotels wouldn’t get a return on their investment”. In November, 2012, she restructured the team and redesigned the website to make it more user-friendly and adopted a more contemporary image; in other words, closer to Condé Nast and the luxury it represents. In 2012, it began publishing three annual guides: the United Kingdom and Europe, another focussed on America and a third on luxury spas. Online there is also space for small properties that wish to advertise their exclusivity and an events service for hoteliers and customers throughout the world.
The safest transport in the world
Charlotte Evans still travels every month all over the world and is in no doubt that “flying is still the safest form of transport”. She doesn’t mind travelling with low-cost airlines but is less keen on trips that force her to take just a small suitcase. When on holiday, she likes staying in small hotels and villas. “When I travel with my family, we rent a villa. It’s easier, especially with children”, she says, explaining that she spends her holidays with her partner’s three children. The ideal would be alternating between beautiful hotels and a rented house.
Of all the travelling she’s done, India surprised her most, mainly because “I didn’t know what to expect”. Charlotte remembers that whenever she listened to friends, family and colleagues, she got different opinions. She was in the country for three weeks. She recognises that the contrast between rich and poor had a major effect on her, but insists she loved India. “The people, the culture, the colours, the history, everything was surprising, but seeing the contrast between rich and poor really upset me.”
Portugal is a long-standing love affair. She spent holidays here as a child and returns whenever she can. “It’s a fantastic holiday destination”, says Charlotte, who also states that she doesn’t know anyone who’s visited the country and not gone home saying wonderful things about the place. Over the years, she has seen the hotel industry in Portugal “grow well” and, even in times of crisis, “retain quality”.
“They managed to resist the crisis better than their counterparts in other European countries”, she highlights. She adds, perhaps “because they maintained service standards, which is absolutely fundamental”. Gastronomy, wine, the countryside, a centre of culture, “Portugal promoted itself well”. And not only the Algarve as a beach destination, but also as a destination for experiences. “The Portuguese did that well.”
In terms of a place to live, apart from the UK, Charlotte would choose Spain or Portugal. Not necessarily in the South, because she prefers culture to the beach. For the moment, the director of Condé Nast Johansens wants to focus on the brand and “leave a legacy”. But when she feels it’s time to eave, she won’t think twice. “My dream was to run a boutique hotel, go back to my roots, before I’m completely exhausted!”
by Augusto Freitas de Sousa
web design & development 262media.com