Bespoke travel specialists are delving deep into their imaginations for ever more amazing experiences to feed your thrill factor.
The growth of customised services plus a booming internet travel market mean bespoke holidays are superseding the pre-packaged variety. "Our clients are looking for unusual experiences that fit with their personal tastes, passions, desires and constraints. We target a clientele whose average budget for a 10-day long-haul holiday for five people is around €80,000. Our aim is to provide individually tailored holidays, suggest new ideas, deal with logistics and anticipate requirements," explains Quentin Desurmont who runs the Peplum agency. To cope with these new demands he has set up Traveller Made, the first European network of bespoke travel operators, already with 96 members all over Europe including seven in France (Peplum, Safrans du Monde, Tapis Rouge, Tselana Travel…). While global tourism continues its democratisation, they are premiering new trends triggered by the idea that the experience is as important as – or more than – the destination.
Concept to custom
A picnic on China's Great Wall, a private visit to New York's MOMA, dinner with an archaeologist in the ruins of an Inca fortress... the question today is no longer where to go but why and with whom. Which motivated Olivier Gasberg (Au Fur et à Mesure travel collection) to take an experience-based, rather than geography-based, approach driven by what the customer wants from their holiday: make the children happy, enjoy some couple time, discover something new… Likewise focused on personalisation, Continent Insolite has just published its latest guide to bespoke holidays, covering in-vogue destinations (Bhutan, Oman…), ultra-confidential addresses and unprecedented experiences such as helping renowned vet Flip Stander treat Namibian lions, meeting a NASA astronaut on Cape Canaveral, floating in a balloon over Burma's Bagan temples or exploring Hong Kong by private junk. Also gaining popularity: completely private visits to... well, almost anywhere you fancy, from the Sultan of Oman's stables or the Angkor temples to the Eiffel Tower!
Playing the explorer and having it filmed is the latest idea firing thrill-seekers' imaginations. In association with Peplum, the Somewhere Club has devised the HD Travel Experience: accompanied by experts and film crews, adventurous tourists discover far-flung corners of the globe and bring back a souvenir documentary made by Ushuaia Nature. After exploring the seabed and Indonesia's volcanoes then sailing on the world's fastest trimaran, the third HD Travel Experience took 10 lucky people off to Antarctica in January 2014, accompanied by experienced mariners, high-mountain guides and world freediving champion Frédéric Buyle; there they dived in glacial waters to swim with hump-backed whales. If playing at Robinson Crusoe in 5-star comfort is more your thing, glamping (glam camping) has become very popular in recent years, both on the ground and in the trees. Luxurious cabins are popping up all over the world, from the Kalahari and Kenya to Peru with its see-through bubble "skylodge" suspended above a sacred mountain! Away from the world with only nature for company, these upmarket camps represent a new concept in luxury holidaying and encourage us to reconnect with essentials, as in relearning to enjoy silence and time passing. Might that be the ultimate luxury, in fact?
The latest detox
A new type of luxury hotel is aiming to fulfil the needs of a clientele seeking a simple, natural way to switch off, both metaphorically and literally. The Westin Dublin Hotel, for example, offers a Digital Detox Package in which you leave smartphones, tablets and other gadgets in its safe in exchange for a survival kit that includes a walking map of the city, a (real) newspaper, a relaxing candle and a board game.
By Marjorie Modi