Robb Report Singapore Thought Leader: Stephanie Chai, Founder and CEO of The Luxe Nomad

Meet Stephanie Chai, self-admitted workaholic and member of the Robb Report Singapore Thought Leaders community

Stephanie Chai is a self-admitted workaholic – it’s a trait that has existed within her from a young age. As a teenager, she would spend her weekends researching business ideas instead of spending it on leisure activities like shopping. When it came to her career and purpose, it’s always been very clear to her; she was never going to work for someone or do something corporate. By 14, she had her whole life planned in front of her; setting four main goals as benchmarks for her own success.

Her first two goals were to enrol in a university and dabble in the show business industry – both of which she achieved, graduating from the University of Auckland and having experience as a TV presenter. Her third goal is to start her own business. Today, Chai is the CEO of The Luxe Nomad, a luxury villa booking portal and management company. Featuring thousands of curated villas in 33 destinations around the world, it is Asia Pacific’s leading travel booking website for luxury villas.

Chai has one last remaining goal – to enter the public service – but we don’t have a doubt in our mind that she won’t accomplish it.

Where do you see this industry going in the future? Also, name one common misconception about your industry that you would change if you could.

I believe the luxury villa and vacation rental space will continue to become more mainstream and popular. After all, who doesn’t want privacy and a pool all to themselves?

One misconception might be that travellers are returning to hotspots, expecting service and places to be exactly as they were in 2019. Travellers should remember there has been two very difficult years of only domestic travel, reduced teams and many staff having now returned from their home village. While we haven’t had any complaints at our villas thus far as most villa staff were retained, I am forgiving in general of any restaurant or hotel I visit where I can see them struggling. Travel was a key industry that was decimated during COVID-19 and it will take a little time for everyone to get back in sync.

Was there ever a career setback you faced which you later discovered was an advantage?

Yes, quite a few. I remember when we first launched, we were six months behind and as my investor said at the time: “They’ve got an A team compared to you.”

Nothing like being the underdog! When we first launched, there were about five other companies following the same business model. We were the only one to make it, albeit launching later and raising less funds. We just hustled more and made better strategic directions.

What’s the one thing about you that will surprise most people?

Sense of humour? Not sure. But generally when I meet people, we quickly become good friends.

Editor’s note: Get to know the full Thought Leaders community here.

Photography by Sayher Heffernan
Styling by Wei Lun Tok
Hair & Makeup by Angel Gwee
Credits: Chanel Beauty and L’Oréal Hair Professional; silk dress by Gucci