Five minutes with James Williams

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Oryx speaks to James Williams, the host of CNN International’s new travel show, In 24 Hours, which descends on a vibrant city each month to experience a perfect day’s downtime.


When travellers can look up anything online, why do we still need a series like In 24 Hours?
Anyone can go on Google and look up a new restaurant, a new whatever. That’s not a unique experience. This show is about finding those sorts of gems that you can’t just search for online: that are new, that are different, that you can’t just google. We find those experiences for the viewer.

You’ll be meeting celebrities like theatre legend Andrew Lloyd Webber and chef Anthony Bourdain. What insights can they offer?
These people are the ultimate insiders. They’re at the beating heart of what’s hot and what’s new and the places that you need to try right now. Getting access to these people allows us to get the insider information that you would never just pick up yourself from a guidebook.

Have you uncovered any treasures you wish you’d known about earlier?
Track 61 was fascinating. It’s a private underground railway platform connected to New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Very few people know it’s there; it’s hidden under one of the world’s great hotels, and it’s used by the presidents of the United States. FDR’s train is still sitting under the Waldorf Astoria Hotel 70 years later.

You’ll be trying out some incredible luxury experiences. If money were no object, what would you do again and again?
Blade is a new US service that works like Uber for helicopters. It gets you from New York’s JFK to Midtown Manhattan in six minutes, compared to an hour to an hour and a half by taxi. That’s the great value. The thing that the discerning traveller is lacking is time, and that’s what Blade offers. If money was of no relevance, that’s one service that it would be great to never have to live without.

In the era of globalisation, was it hard to still find a city’s unique experiences?
No, not at all. Each of the experiences we’re finding speaks to the city itself. What’s difficult is getting the insider knowledge, finding out what discerning travellers are doing. We’re tapping into networks to find the right people – to get you the right information, to get that insider access.

What are the global trends for the 2016 traveller?
Today it’s all about the experience. There are new restaurants, new theatre shows that open every week around the world. Anyone can do that. It’s really about the unique experience, the location for those in the know.

Follow the ‘In 24 Hours’ team:
Facebook: @cnntravel  #CNNTravel
Instagram: @cnntravel  #CNNTravel
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