Taha Bouqdib is the president of TWG Tea, a global tea retailer that specializes in luxury blends. He lives in Singapore and travels extensively for work. He spoke to Reuters about managing his travel.
Q: How many flights a year do you estimate you take each year? Which is your most frequent route?
A: “I fly around 40 times a year, to source and often develop harvests, and select flowers, fruits and spices for our exclusive blends. My most frequent destinations for work are India, particularly to Darjeeling, China, where I treasure the journey up the picturesque Wu Yi mountains and Japan, where their near-religious devotion to the cultivation of their Gyokuro never fails to humble me. I also spend a significant amount of time in Europe and the US. Very little can compete with standing in a field of roses in full bloom in Grasse in springtime and deciding that I will incorporate this into a new blend, or winning over a spice trader in Morocco over a cup of tea and discovering his finest harvest of mint.”
Q: What is the most important factor in choosing an airline?
A: “The time of departure. I prefer to travel during the night, otherwise, I feel like I am wasting time. The quality of service onboard and the comfort of the seats are key.”
Q: What was your worst travel experience?
A: “In 2009, I had to wait for 10 hours for a flight from New York to Milan on a carrier I would rather not name. All the passengers were in the airport the entire time without any food or drinks. They made no effort to make this time more pleasant or to compensate passengers for the delay. It was really appalling.”
Q: How do you deal with jetlag? Any tricks for sleeping on flights?
A: “Pay attention to departure and arrival times. During the flight itself, I try to accustom my body to the local time zone and try to adjust by sleeping in the plane when I would normally sleep at my destination. To fall asleep on a flight, the best tactic is to read, because you will get tired faster than when watching a movie. Alternatively, watch a very boring movie!”
Q: What is essential in your bag on a work trip and any tips for packing?
A: “I always take TWG teabags with me when I travel. My choice depends on my destination: I like to have a taste of the culture I am about to experience in my teacup, before I arrive. I also carry a rich lip balm when I fly, because air conditioning dries your skin out terribly. To sleep well in the plane, I always pack a very comfortable, cotton tracksuit, a warm cardigan and slippers. I also try to always bring my own headphones. When packing, I put all my clothes and toiletries in plastic freezer bags so they don’t get crumpled. I also use a bigger bag than I need, so the clothes have space. I usually put a “fragile” sticker on my suitcase even though it is not, to ensure it will be handled with care.”
Q: What is your major bugbear about traveling and what do you enjoy?
A: “I hate to have to transit when I travel, I feel like I’m wasting my time. I am also always afraid of getting sick when traveling, which just makes everything more difficult. What I enjoy most is discovering new countries, seeing cultural differences and hearing foreign languages spoken all around me. Travel also inspires me to create for TWG Tea, and gives me the time to absorb emerging trends, most particularly when I travel by train. The magical experience of watching people from all walks of life, coming and going at each station, is truly unique, and the relatively leisurely tempo of a train gives you the time to admire and absorb the scenery.”
Editing by Miral Fahmy