- Jules Maury is the head of Scott Dunn Private, an ultraexclusive division of a luxury travel firm.
- She was raised in a wealthy family and learned how to plan luxury trips by taking them herself.
- Now she plans exciting experiences for clients that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Jules Maury was 12 when she made her first hotel booking. She and her sister, who was 10 at the time, had left boarding school in Britain to fly to Geneva, where they’d reunite with their parents. But there was no one there to greet them: The girls’ father, a president at Dow Chemical, had accidentally booked his flight to arrive the following day.
But Maury wasn’t fazed. “My first instinct was to get into a taxi and ask to be taken to the Beau Rivage, which was the only five-star hotel name I could remember,” Maury told Insider. “And when we got there, I said they should call Dow Chemical and they’d pay the bill.” Her parents, fraught with worry, arrived the next day. “And there we were, two princesses, safe as houses, sitting upstairs having room service.”
Decades later, Maury remains resourceful, connected, and matter-of-fact as the head of Scott Dunn Private, the London-based ultraexclusive division of the luxury-travel firm Scott Dunn. She handles trips for the world’s wealthiest people along with a team of four travel advisors and six booking specialists. It’s an invitation-only division.
“We’re not telling you where to put $2 million in stocks and shares to get the best returns — we’re telling you where to spend it to get the most exciting experiences,” she said.
Maury’s clients often come to her as referrals from wealth managers like Killik & Co. She said she doesn’t charge hourly consulting fees for trip planning, as some travel specialists do, but relies on commissions from suppliers; the industry standard is around 10% of spend, but she said it can vary. She added that such considerations never affect her recommendations — she values the trust her clients place in her far more than a little extra cash.
Here’s what her job is like and how she broke into the industry.
She got her start booking vacations for friends
Maury stumbled into her role as a secret weapon for one-percenters’ vacations by accident. She started booking friends’ holidays for fun while living overseas as the wife of an expat executive.
Without a visa, Maury wasn’t able to work where they lived in places like Australia, Vietnam, or St. Barts, but her friends came to her for advice, as Maury was steeped in globetrotting. Her childhood included skiing in St. Moritz, spending summers on Lake Como, and even living in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong for three months.
“I’d been to, or lived in, so many luxury places,” she said. “And it became embedded in me how fascinating it was to travel, see new cultures and new people, and I loved to share it with other people.”
When she moved back to the UK full time in 2008, Maury turned this expertise into a career. While working for a different travel company, she was headhunted by Andrew Dunn for her current role. The interview was structured around her knowledge of travel, and she was asked about insightful experiences she would apply to different destinations to make a trip stand out.
“By then, my knowledge, what I had picked up from traveling, was probably second to none,” she said. “When a member talks to me who’s someone ultra-high-net-worth, I know because I’ve lived their life.”
Her insider perspective is why many requests for trips that Maury receives are surprisingly vague. “I often get an email from an existing client that will say, ‘You know what we love, so what do we do now? Where do we go next?'” she said.
Her service isn’t simply about private-jet charters and penthouses at five-star hotels. Maury’s specialty is money-can’t-buy experiences, or what she calls “fairy dust”: scoring a primetime dinner reservation at the Michelin-starred restaurant Arzak in San Sebastián next weekend when it’s booked solid for months, for instance, or securing a meeting with a curator at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum to view a facsimile of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (“The originals are in a vault, because of their frailty, and you need government clearance to access them,” Maury said.)
But there are limits even to her connections. She says her black book, built up over years of traveling and networking, is filled with anyone interesting she thinks might be worth weaving into a travel journey or story. “But I’ve failed to get the entire Eiffel Tower privatized,” she said. “Well, at least so far.”
Planning 6-figure vacations is her specialty
Upcoming trips she’s planned include a private sailing trip around the Galápagos Islands for a multigenerational family reunion and another down the Nile for six women who are leaving their husbands at home. Their full-time guide, one of the world’s foremost Egyptologists, can whisk them into pyramids and archeological sites that are usually off-limits to tourists.
Another group, consisting of three women and their daughters, will celebrate graduation with a trip to France, featuring private after-hours shopping at the department store La Samaritaine.
Recently she arranged an $800,000 weeklong superyacht tour for a family over the holidays that included special access to islands, a private villa, beach picnics, and snorkeling.
When the going gets tough, Maury gets going
Maury’s greatest value to her clients is in how deftly she can fix problems when they arise.
Take the client who was staying at the Amanzoe resort in Greece this summer when the hotel caught fire because of nearby wildfires. “We airlifted her somewhere else on a private jet,” Maury said.
Another client of hers was about to head to Bali when Mount Agung erupted. She woke to a call at 6 a.m.
“I said to them, ‘Do you trust me?’ and they said yes, so I told them to fly to London, and when they landed I’d let them know where they were going,” Maury said. Within hours she’d planned a custom trip in Cambodia, complete with a private dinner in an off-limits temple and luxury accommodations at Amansara.
“The magic was the fact they landed in London and had no idea where they were going, but we sorted it out,” she said. “It was a true crisis, but it ended up being so magical — they said it was one of the best holidays they’ve ever had.”
The company has a team in San Diego and another in Singapore who cover Maury’s off-hours, but she said that if someone needs to speak with her late at night or on the weekends, she’ll always take the call and then use her backup teams to look after the issue.
But even an expert travel planner lacks some knowledge
Maury still relishes the chance to travel, and she spends much of the year on the road, often attending luxury travel shows like ILTM in Cannes or Pure in Marrakech. When her team bought out Octola in Lapland for a family, she hadn’t seen it personally, so she flew there and back from London on a budget airline for a reassuring site inspection.
Maury acknowledged she has a few gaps in her knowledge: She’s not yet visited Antarctica — a buzzy destination — or set foot in Japan. She said that while she plans to remedy both as soon as she can, she delights in the fact that parts of the world remain new to her.
Her company pays when she’s on a familiarization trip, be it a hotel or destination, and the budget depends — Chile would be more than a long weekend in Malta. She pays for her own trips, which are frequent; she said her thirst for learning outpaces the time she has. She said she’s sometimes offered reduced rates or complimentary hotel services, but she doesn’t take any comped flights.
This year alone, Maury has traveled to Lisbon, Portugal; Montenegro; Israel; Marrakech, Morocco; Malta; and Sardinia.
“Someone asked me the other day, ‘Where is your favorite place?’ and I honestly answered, from my heart, ‘It’s where I haven’t been yet,'” she said.