askST@NLB: Travel specialist singles out top spots in the Americas to visit

Richard Launder (left) and ST travel writer Lee Siew Hua speaking at The Central Public Library.
Richard Launder (left) and ST travel writer Lee Siew Hua speaking at The Central Public Library.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Imagine visiting the city of Louisville in Kentucky in the United States, the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, meeting his brother and hearing what it was like to grow up with the boxing legend.

That might seem like a reach, but it is the kind of unique travel experience that Mr Richard Launder, president and chief executive of tour operator Destination America wants to bring customers.

The guest speaker at askST @ NLB last night, Mr Launder is the director of The Travel Corporation (TTC) USA - the parent company of Destination America, which specialises in custom group and incentive travel.

The talk at the National Library in Victoria Street, attended by 150 readers, was conducted by Straits Times travel writer Lee Siew Hua.

The talk provided audiences with a peek at the myriad options both North and South America have to offer.

Questions posed by Ms Lee to Mr Launder in their friendly back-and-forth that lasted one and a half hours included whether the US was safe for travellers, and what a good destination might be for first-time goers.

As an introduction, Mr Launder quizzed the audience on various places he had photographed in national parks across the US - demonstrating the diversity of landscapes present in the more than 50 parks.

He also talked about up-and-coming travel destinations, such as the Pacific Northwest and Nashville, a city in the state of Tennessee, which he said has much to offer in terms of music for fans of country, blues and jazz.

Mr Launder also named Colombia as a "world-class destination" for travellers interested in exploring South America.

Asked about travel trends, he cited an increasing number of solo travellers "over the next 10, 15, 20 years" as something to look out for. He noted his company intends to expand the number of departures exclusive to "solo travellers who might want the company of others who are in similar circumstances as themselves."

Video producer Matt Lim, 49, said he liked when Mr Launder talked about New York City as an example of how cities reinvent themselves.

"I've not thought of going back to New York after I visited it 10 years ago because I thought I had seen it all. But after he mentioned places like the High Line and the Oculus, I feel like (going back again)," he said.

The askST @ NLB series is a monthly collaboration between NLB and ST in which ST journalists helm discussions on topics.

The next session will led by sports journalist Rohit Brijnath and medal-winning shooter Jasmine Ser on March 7. Interested readers can register for the event via the link: str.sg/askRohit1