The Peruvian Andes, the Baqueira region of Spain and Langisjór Lake in the Icelandic central highlands, accessible only by super jeeps… These are just some of the destinations bespoke travel company Black Tomato has arranged ‘Blink’ trips to so far this year. The idea – which was inspired by the rise of pop-up restaurants and retail stores, and the growing trend for clients seeking ever more personalised experiences – is that the company can set up temporary accommodation in utterly remote, hand-picked locations that have never been used before and never will be again. At the end, the camp will be dismantled and the environment left in a pristine state, as if no-one had ever been there at all.
“In a world where globalisation and social media allows us to be constantly connected, we’re seeing a rise in consumers who are seeking authentic experiences”, explains the company’s co-founder, Tom Marchant. “Whether it’s positioning your tent in an exact location to see the sunrise from a particular sand dune in Morocco that’s never been camped on before, or setting up a luxury camp on a fjord that’s barely been explored, Blink aims to get clients off the grid experiencing a one-of-a-kind travel experience that gives them a unique story to tell. Tents are usually set on raised platforms to ensure the flora and fauna isn’t displaced, and energy and hot water is powered by renewable energy sources.”
“What we’re seeing is really a shift in consumer behaviour”, agrees Luca Franco, co-founder of Luxury Frontiers – a company set up four years ago that works with existing brands to bridge the gap between traditional hotels and adventure travel (past projects include designing Abu Camp for Wilderness Safaris and Eagle Island Lodge for Belmond Safaris). “Luxury is now about transformational travel, and at the same time the conservation and preservation of the environment.”
Luxury Frontiers helps hotel owners, who perhaps have a plot of unused land, to create low-environmental-impact, low-cost ‘add-ons’ – canvas tents, timber cabins, treetop suites – that can be put in place in landscapes where traditional construction might not be feasible. “With a short development timeline, fewer building restrictions (because the products are technically dismountable) and the demand for such sleeping arrangements high, the benefits for hotels are enormous”, continues Franco, who has had a passion for experiential travel since he was a young boy.
Next month, along with a handful of industry insiders, he is taking part in the second PURE Pursuit (Marchant also attended the inaugural event in Iceland last year). This year’s ‘challengers’, Franco included, are embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime trip in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in America’s Idaho. Run in partnership with Mountain Travel Sobek, specialists in adventure travel, the aim is that a “perspective-altering” endurance survival test in the Wild West will spark ideas on how to tackle the challenges facing the travel industry and innovate for the future.
“All of our camping-based trips follow the ‘leave no trace’ principles”, says Danilo Bonilla, Director of Rivers Operations at Mountain Travel Sobek, which always includes an environmental responsibility section in its pre-trip planning documents for guests. “The key point is: carry out whatever you carry in. We recommend thinking about minimising the accumulation of trash, even at the packing stage, and ask clients to bring biodegradable soaps and shampoos in our packing lists.” Of the PURE Pursuits trip he concludes, “an adventure like this demonstrates how beautiful a place can remain when everyone follows the same standard for minimising impact. It’s an inspiring thing to experience.”
London-based freelance journalist Emma Love specialises in writing about interiors, design and travel for titles such as Elle Decoration and Condé Nast Traveller, where she is a contributing editor. She also writes for publications such as the Financial Times and the Guardian.