Co-Pilot Spotlight: Mary Gostelow

Posted on December 21, 2017 by Cora Boyd

Mary at the St. Petersburg Belmond Grand Hotel

The Co-Pilot Spotlight navigates into the minds and experiences of travel professionals and professional travelers. Join us in the cockpit with Mary Gostelow, owner and publisher of Gostelow Report monthly market intelligence briefings; publisher and editor of the daily Girlahead Global updates on the world of luxury travel; weekly columnist in HOTELS magazine, and in LATTE, for the Australasian market; and recipient and custodian of the Mary Gostelow Award, given annually for lifetime achievement by International Luxury Travel Markets ILTMs. 

OTPYM: Where was the first place you ever traveled?

MARY GOSTELOW: The first place I seriously visited was Beirut, flying in on a four-hour flight that served two whole meals, in Economy. Those were the days.

Where is the last place you visited?

Last place I was in on dry land was Los Angeles Downtown, now I am at sea, in the Pacific (sorry, ON the Pacific) with, again, 360-degree views, but blues of ocean and sky.

Where is the favorite place you’ve traveled and why?

I have so many favorite places I do not know where to start, but top of the list is my home. Two hours’ drive from Heathrow, up the lane and there is the house, looking out at 360-degree greenery, not another building in sight.  That is quality of life.

When on your travels have you felt the most out of your comfort zone?

I was most out of my comfort zone flying into Douala, without a visa.  They kept be airside for 48 hours – that was the last time I traveled in a skirt.

Who is the most interesting person you have ever met while traveling and why?

Nicolai Michoutoukine, a White Russian who lived on Vanuatu, invited me to call by when I was next in Port Vila.  We met in the tie-dye store he ran with Aloi Piloko.  Come to lunch at my home, he said.  We drove to a distant beach, one little shack there. Nicolai came out. He was wearing a full-length tie-dye kaftan and had two pairs of eye-glasses, both cracked, hanging round his neck. We went on to the beach.  A simple wood table had its legs in the sand, and place mats were banana leaves.  There were two wood benches, and a pet monkey frolicked around.  We drank Champagne, lots of it, and ate a whole leg of lamb, lots of it (with our fingers, I think).  After about 90 minutes a woman in a red bikini with a bath-towel round her head as a turban emerged out of the sea holding a really chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot, which of course had to be opened, there and then.  She was Australian and six weeks later she was unmasked as a spy.

What is the most adventurous food you have tried while on the road?

Driving from Siem Reap to the Cambodian capital, 90 kms before reach Phnom Penh you drive through Skuon, a one-street village which is basically a truck stop. Villagers run up with three-foot circular trays piled high with black ‘cakes’ which are actually deep-fried tarantulas.

What is the next travel trend?

The most noticeable trend in travel is bifurcation. The vast majority of travelers really do not even want local experiences and, sadly, do not want to give back. A small minority wants to get away from the madding crowd and to give back, through interaction with local villages and helping schools and orphanages.

In what ways, as a society, can we change travel to be a force for good?

Travel is essential to understand different cultures and peoples, and to understand the desperate need to respect our world, which includes even more involvement with sustainabiity. Big hotel names of the caliber of Rainy Chan, who has taken a year out of running The Peninsula Hong Kong to help orphanages in both Cambodia and Hong Kong must seriously be commended.