Surely it’s a myth that Tamara Heber-Percy travels to the world’s most beautiful locations all year round. Surely, she must be stuck behind a desk, like most of us, and have teams of people to review Mr & Mrs Smith’s hotel portfolio? Well, no, not really. Not only does Tamara travel regularly to wonderful places, but she also kindly squeezed in this interview early on a Monday morning, ahead of a family holiday to Brazil. She really does have the best life…
“I can dress this job up to sound like the most glamourous, most amazing in the world, but holidays for us are never totally holidays. We’re normally like travelling gypsies and never stay in one place for very long. We took the kids (Tom is 8 and Alexandra is 5) to Bali last year and moved every few days. When we visit hotels we get shown around and the kids hate it. We feel overly serviced sometimes because of who we are so it’s not 100% relaxing. But we love what we do. And we see the most amazing places, although I do say to the kids that it’s not normal; it’s because mummy and daddy work in the travel industry."
“But this time (to Brazil) it will feel more like a holiday because we will stay in one place for 10 days. And at Easter we stayed in a caravan in Dorset; the kids had a great time.”
Can holidays still be relaxing, now you have children?
“It’s not about crèches, about how many swimming pools a hotel has; it’s about the attitude of the staff. As a parent, you don’t want to be on edge because the sofas are white and you’re scared they’re going to spill something, or break something.”
Is that why you launched Smith & Family, separate to Mr & Mrs Smith?
“Yes. Mark Warner does kids hotels very well. But we look for the three pillars: what’s the hotel going to provide for the children, the whole family and the parents? A lot of us are working mums so when we go on holiday we want to be with our children. And my husband wants a good bottle of wine in the evening on a table that isn’t covered with sticky fingers. These hotels are really hard to find.”
Given that you work in the leisure industry, can you really separate work and play? Is it important to do that?
“The way we relax is being at home. With a curry. It’s very humdrum. For our birthdays James and I do go away just the two of us, to a Smith hotel, but one we are already working with. And we try to do things as a family. We’re getting our youngest into biking so we can do it all together. At weekends, I want to spend time with my kids.”
But if you did have a day to yourself, with no other commitments, how would you spend it?
“I would be lost! I would probably spend the first 10 minutes panicking! I think I would potter, go for a walk – we live on the edge of Kew Gardens – and not take my phone.”
What about the most relaxing hotel you’ve visited?
“In the UK, it’s Lime Wood in Hampshire. It’s not the biggest, not the flashiest spa, but there’s something about it and it looks out into the woods. Abroad, Bali was pretty amazing, so the Alila Villas Uluwatu. It’s perched right on the edge of a cliff, with a beach down below, but only for half a day (because of the tides), with little pools and coral. No-one can ruin it because it’s not there for very long.
Winding Down with Tamara Heber-Percy
Night Cap or Night Cream?
Night cap. A glass of wine at the end of the evening is truly important to me.
Story Time or FaceTime?
Story Time. I’m a complete book worm. As is my son. He’d read until midnight if I didn’t stop him. I’ve just finished reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.
Tamara Heber-Percy is co-founder and CTO of Mr & Mrs Smith, www.mrandmrssmith.com