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Around the World in 80 BrandsIn the footsteps of the great explorers
In the footsteps of the great explorersWe are cycling through Amsterdam’s historic centre, a UNESCO world heritage site and anenduring testimony to the city’s rich history. During the Golden Age in the 17th century,Amsterdam’s port was at the centre of a global trade network, with ships sailing to Asia, Africa,Brazil and the Americas, and merchants trading goods across Europe.We pass in front of Paradiso, the iconic rock music venue where bands like The Rolling Stones,The Sex Pistols, The Cure, Nirvana performed, but also more recently Lenny Kravitz and AmyWinehouse. Along with the nearby Milky Way, it became synonymous with the hippiecounterculture and the rock music of the seventies.We turn right and then left and we cycle on the Prinsengracht, one of main canals, wherewarehouses built in the 17th century are still in good shape. Much has changed since then: inthose days merchants travelling to Brazil were away for months, maybe even years. Today,businessmen fly to São Paulo and are back in the polder within days.We pass in front of the house where Anne Frank lived, talking about an authentic story, andenter the Jordaan neighbourhood where strolling through the small streets and drinking caffélatte has become the favourite pastime of the locals. Our quest to travel around the world towrite stories about cool destinations, visionary people and brands with a purpose starts here inAmsterdam.We turn right at the end of the canal, zigzag through some smaller streets and end up in frontof Central Station. We now enter the oldest part of town where the sailors and merchants tookoff on their wooden ships, ‘the port of Amsterdam’.Now, 670 years after Amsterdam received city rights, our trip around the world in 80 storiesstarts at the same point from where explorers left for their overseas journeys. And to wherethey returned with experiences, knowledge and... stories.
The benefit of the benefit of flying KLMIt’s early in the morning when the taxi drops us off at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It’s real Dutchweather today: grey and rainy with a chill in the air. In two hours we are flying to Brazil, where we aregoing to make a reportage about the Atlantic rainforest. After check-in, we have time for a coffee in theKLM business lounge.Just as we are about to settle on two chaises longues with our café lattes, we see Camiel Eurlings, KLM’s managing director, sitting at the reading table. We met Camiel last month during a KLM dialogueabout sustainable aviation. We go up to greet him and he tells us that he is on his way to Paris for ameeting with Air France. “Et nous allons au Brésil pour sauver la... rainforest,” I say in my best French.“La fôret vierge,” Camiel helps me.“This is exactly what we were talking about last time: our core business is to fly you to Brazil, and wedo that with maximum safety and comfort. But that is the basis, and it doesn’t allow KLM to distinguishitself from other airlines. It’s about purpose. What role does KLM play in the life of its customers? Whatis the benefit of the benefit?”“The benefit of the benefit? Can you explain?” I ask. “It’s simple: the benefit of flying KLM is that youarrive safely in Brazil. The benefit of the benefit is that you can do your work there, making yourreportage about the rainforest. How can I, as KLM, help you with that reportage? I can fly you there,but I can also put you in touch with our network of frequent flyers who know Brazil. Our cabin crew cangive you tips about local customs, and where to have a good meal in Rio. That is the benefit of thebenefit of flying with us.”“How can I help people do business in Hong Kong? By flying them there, making sure that they have astress-free journey and arrive at their meeting rested. Flying them there is our business, enabling themto do business is our purpose.” “Sounds logical,” I say.“The same goes for helping people get to know Maasai culture in Tanzania and climb Kilimanjaro. Wedon’t just drop them in Dar es Salam, but at the airport near Kilimanjaro – that way they are in lightingform when they start their trek.”“Wow, I never realised that climbing Kilimanjaro was the benefit of the benefit of KLM,” I say with asmile.