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Meet the Boss: Laila Ram, i-escape.com

Here at 101 Holidays, we like to get to know the people behind the world’s finest travel companies. This week we talk to Laila Ram, director and co-founder of i-escape.com.

Laila set up the travel website specialising in boutique hotels and hip hideaways with her best friend, Nikki Tinto, back in 2001 to help discerning independent travellers find and book exciting and unusual places to stay in some of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating locations. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.

* Where did you go on holiday last summer, and why? Any plans for next summer?

Last summer we went on a family holiday to Costa Rica. With two energetic boys aged 9 and 12, action and adventure was the name of the game. Costa Rica fit the bill perfectly as we explored the rainforest, hiked up volcanoes, went white-water rafting and zip-wired across the canopy. We also learnt to surf in the world-class waves at Mal Pais.

Next year I am planning to stay nearer to home and want to go to Croatia, to explore the beautiful coastline by sail boat and stay on the car-free island of Palmizana.

* What is your favourite bolthole in the UK, and why?

The Flying Boat Club on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, where you will find just a dozen stylish beachfront cottages, deserted white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and no cars.  Everyone cycles or walks so the pace of life is wonderfully slow and you really feel as if you’ve gone back in time. All the cottages are beautifully kitted out and feature all the latest mod cons, plus there is a fabulous deli, restaurant, pool and spa, all just around the corner.

* If you could spend a long weekend in any city abroad, which would you pick, and why?

I would have to pick Berlin which oozes urban cool. I love all the artists’ open-studios that are dotted around the city. With Berlin being the cheapest capital city in Western Europe, I would splash out and stay at the brand new Soho House hotel (pictured below) and then indulge in the Cowshed spa at the end of the day.

* Please tell us three items that are always found in your luggage.

I always pack a few sarongs as they double as towels, blankets or headscarfs when necessary. For the kids taking  a frisbee and a packet of balloons means hours of entertainment and fun and an easy way to make new friends.  I also always take Vicks First Defence with me on any plane journey to ensure that I don’t catch any nasty bugs, which would ruin the beginning of my holiday.

* What one thing would most improve people’s overall holiday experience?

My number one tip would be to try to ‘learn the lingo’ – even knowing just a few words can transform your holiday experience. Everyone appreciates it when you make an effort to speak their language and you will be rewarded with big smiles. The best way to really get to know a place is to live like a local and if you can’t speak like one then at least speak with one!

* What has been your worst holiday experience?

It has to be a flight I was on when the pilot had to turn back because of a suspicious ‘smell of smoke’ coming from the front of the plane! It was only when we saw the fire-engines meeting the plane on the runway that we realised how serious it was. The plane was delayed overnight and when we set off again the next morning, the plane had to turn back from the runway yet again when the pilot realised there wasn’t enough fuel for the journey.

* Tell us your favourite hotel: in the UK; in mainland Europe; in the rest of the world.

In the UK – The Cove in Cornwall for its beautiful setting in a hidden valley by the sea and Limewood, a stunning new hotel and spa in the New Forest which we are about to add to the i-escape collection.  In Europe – Portixol in Palma de Mallorca for its simple nautical style and hip bar overlooking the harbour.  Long haul – Puri Ganesha in Bali (pictured below) for the shabby chic interiors, heavenly organic food and Diana, the eccentric owner.

* What is the most exciting project your company is working on right now?

We are developing a bespoke instant booking system, which is quite a challenge for a website dealing with small one-off hotels and villas, some of which are so remote they barely have reliable internet connection.

* Thank you, Laila.

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