Having witnessed a surge in demand for group travel over the past couple of years, Black Tomato–renowned for its imaginative and boundary-pushing experiential travel–has taken this as inspiration for its latest offering. It’s in step with a rising trend of travelers wanting to travel together and reconnect–particularly post-pandemic–with family members and groups of friends.
The result is ‘See You in the Moment’ – a line-up of the world’s most extraordinary and rare shared moments that bring groups together at a specific place and point in time. Experiences vary from dining inside Iceland’s Thrihnukagigur Volcano, an otherworldly crater lit by a thousand candles with a volcanologist as a private guide to an expedition on the Apurimac River through the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley. Guests will navigate the otherwise inaccessible remote Ancient Valley of the Incas by raft, staying at luxury campsites along the way.
The company will work with its partners around the world to offer a collection of over 30 remarkable travel moments, categorized by: The Meal, The Event, The Challenge, The Journey, The Celebration–all of which can be personalized with each trip made bespoke. The Meal, for instance, might take the form of dining under the midnight sun in the Lofotens, Norway. The gourmet trip will allow for a memorable multi-day adventure, with options for hiking, kayaking and cold-water plunges, while a team of world-class chefs create magnificent meals set in nature throughout the stay. The Event option, meanwhile, could mean discovering the Lost Songkran in Thailand. The bucket-list festival, Songkran, takes place in a local village in the untouristed Isaan region of Thailand, and offers the chance to forge cherished local connections. Guests will observe the festivities at a temple, take part in a traditional rural temple blessing of the elders, join the night market merriment, and spend an evening with a historian explaining the origins and variations of Songkran across Thailand.
Here, Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, reveals more about the new launch and the changing travel landscape.
Why is the ‘See you in the Moment’ offering so pertinent to our times?
At Black Tomato and across the travel industry, there’s been a surge in demand for tailormade private group travel over the past couple of years, spanning multi-gen families to large groups of friends. This is partly fuelled by an increase in remote nomadic life and people not seeing friends and family so regularly, which has been a catalyst for us to prioritise getting together to do something meaningful with loved ones.
Lives are busier than ever and many of us are craving opportunities to be less rushed and more mindful. Taking the time to connect and experience something extraordinary with those who matter most, serves to slow us down and makes us appreciate being fully present and in the moment, savoured with others.
What is your favourite trip in the line-up?
Trekking the Kumano Kodo in Wakayama, Japan is an incredible journey, an ancient pilgrimage made even more special by a plethora of inspiring, immersive experiences we’re arranging along the way.
Winding through the mountains of Kii, the Kumano Kodo pathways have been trodden by peasant and emperor, samurai and poet–a place of cherry trees, gorges, misty vistas, and moss underfoot. Hundreds of ruins and relics are hidden in this great forest, still worshipped by ascetic monks who call these mountains home. For a truly unforgettable three-day journey, travelers will join an expert guide and embark on this UNESCO-protected ancient pilgrimage in Wakayama Prefecture, sharing new vistas and indefinable experiences along the ‘pilgrimage of emperors’. Along the way, travelers will receive rare blessings at some of the route’s most sacred temples: Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and Nachi Taisha, and experience special surprises, from a private food tour of traditional sweet shops, to uncover more about the history of the area, to an adventurous cruise along the river and over rapids. In the evenings, travelers on this journey will rest up in simple mountain lodges for sake, stories and togetherness, beneath a blanket of eternal stars.
Another favourite; a magical gourmet meal under the midnight sun in Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands.
A gourmet private retreat in the Nordics, perched on a secluded beach on an uninhabited island in the Lofotens, is where guests will enjoy the best of nature’s bounty, while relishing the simplicity of living in the elements. A tailored takeover allows creating a memorable multi-day adventure, with options for hiking, kayaking, surfing, RIB boats, cold-water plunges, while a team of world-class chefs and artisans will create magnificent meals throughout the stay, culminating in a gastronomic beach barbecue on a deserted shore accessed by Zodiac; a magical setting for sharing stories.
How does the Black Tomato team keep ahead of travel trends and remain so inventive?
Innovation is baked into Black Tomato’s DNA and it’s integral to the lifeblood of the company. To remain relevant and known for pioneering new services, we have an in-house ‘Innovation Council’ that meets regularly to shape new product lines based on insights into how people are travelling. We also look to see cultures or trends that could impact how people are feeling about certain types of trips or parts of the world. The fact that our core values are humble, thoughtful and curious, means that we have a company full of people constantly questioning and thinking about new ways to travel.
Has Black Tomato, as a brand, reached where you thought it would, when you launched it?
From the beginning, we dreamt big, which means we’re still dreaming. But, if you were to tell us on our first day where we are now, we would have been over the moon. It’s gratifying to see all that we’ve achieved and how the company has evolved, and crucially, we’re as excited by the business now, as we were on day one.
What are you most proud of in your BT journey?
Three things. Firstly, the people we have at the company and our partners around the world. Travel is essentially about people connecting, and getting to do that every day is hugely rewarding. Secondly, our resilience as a company and having overcome significant challenges. From the ash cloud events in Iceland–-one of our most visited destinations–to the pandemic, I’m incredibly proud of our ability to navigate and come through these challenging times. Thirdly, the effect we have on clients. The feedback we have from people who are regularly moved and transformed, so much so that they change their lives, ultimately is at the heart of our purpose of why we exist; to inspire people through remarkable places and experiences.
Is there somewhere in the world that you would like to visit that you haven’t been–and why?
Alaska, which feels like one of the last great wildernesses. Everything I’ve seen and heard about it captivates me: mind-blowing landscapes, wildlife and scenery. I love the wilderness and Alaska has near-mythical appeal.
What inspires you about travel?
I have a firm belief that travel has the power to change us, and others, for the better. Travel opens minds, fosters greater understanding of people and places, and humbles you, in giving a massive sense of perspective.
How do you like to holiday with your family?
Going to places that encourage the curiosity of my two daughters. It’s a joy that I get to experience them engaging and understanding about the world, whether in cultural capitals or amongst remote local communities.
What are the main ways that the pandemic has changed the travel sector?
As people are prioritising travel and their bucket lists more than ever, they’re increasingly travelling with a sense of purpose, more considered and slowly. It’s impossible to see the whole world in a lifetime, and many have realised it’s about connecting with places and not rushing around, rather exploring places thoughtfully, in the right way.
What next for Black Tomato?
Growing our presence in the markets we serve, creating new experiences, and inspiring and introducing our product and service line developments to more people.