For your next vacation, forget about taking inspiration from Instagram. You’re going to go where nobody has been before, on a trip that nobody has ever taken — and that nobody after you will ever take again.
That’s the promise of Blink, a new ephemeral vacation service that the high-end travel outfitter Black Tomato is launching Thursday. Here’s how it works: You pick a country or region, and Black Tomato will find a pristine parcel of land on which to build you a fully customized pop-up hotel, complete with staff and meals and excursions. You choose everything from the view to the bed linens to the bottles in your pop-up wine cellar. It’s tailor-made travel in the most literal way ever.
“People use the words ‘tailor made’ so ubiquitously these days. What does that even mean anymore?” said Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, who conceived of Blink as a response to the traction he saw from pop-up retail concepts. “Temporary experiences really excite people,” he said. “They create a sense of urgency.”
For Marchant, this is the direction that luxury is moving in. He says his personal definition of luxury is something that’s truly unique and can’t be replicated, and hoteliers far and wide agree. But there’s only so much customizing that a hotel can pull off. “Bespoke bath amenities” will be bespoke to a property’s design, not to the guests’ individual wishes; “customized excursions” are often just tweaks to tried and true itineraries.
But those who create a trip using Blink will have — by Marchant’s calculations — 751,074,508,800 total trip combinations to choose from after all the granular details are factored in.
So where to begin? An epic location. Black Tomato has built its name off exceptional access to remote places, and Marchant’s team has spent roughly 18 months laying the groundwork for this new project. “Blink is available anywhere in the world,” Marchant said — and he means it. (Yes, that includes the Arctic.) But he and his team will inspire clients with such far-flung and exotic locations as the salt flats in Bolivia or Australia’s Kimberly region. Safari-goers might set up in Namibia or the Kalahari; culture fiends can head to Rajasthan or Myanmar’s Inle Lake; and action fanatics can choose from ski trips in Switzerland, northern lights spotting in Iceland, or riding the sand dunes in the Moroccan desert. These are all among Marchant’s favorites — and hardly compromise an exhaustive list.
Once the general location is set, travelers can get into the nitty gritty of designing their pop-up hotel from the ground up. In an effort to leave no trace behind, Marchant chose semipermanent (but high-design) tents as the format for all Blink pop-ups, but you can choose from a variety of styles: canvas, domes, bubbles, yurts, tropical villa tents, and a few more. Then everything from the layout of the beds (yes, real beds) to the patterns on the seat cushions and the brand of bath amenities is up to your personal whim.
The process can take place online — Marchant likened the experience to “choosing from a room service menu” — or over the phone with an expert, though he also clarified that guests can be as hands-on or hands-off as they want to be. (Even the customization process is customizable.)
Depending on the remoteness of the location and how established Black Tomato is in that area, it can take three to five months to execute a client’s vision. Not only does it require a logistical superstorm to get all your preferences lined up and installed on site; Black Tomato also has to staff each camp individually. For some guests, that might mean daily housekeeping and a couple of great guides; for others, it could mean a sommelier, chef, and an astronomer for expert-led stargazing sessions. Blink trips include meals, excursions, transfers, and everything in between. “We create the full package,” Marchant explained.
Blink took a lot of work to get off the ground — but it will quickly become a well-oiled machine, Marchant hopes. Black Tomato expects to start small, commissioning roughly 10-20 trips in the service’s first year and ultimately scaling it into the hundreds. “We have the infrastructure to support growth on this,” Marchant assured, but he also recognized that it’s not a trip that everyone can (or will) take. “It’s not a mass proposition — it’s about the right people at the right time in the right place.”
As for the pricing, that’s fully bespoke, too. According to Marchant, prices can range from $65,784 for a group of six that wants to spend three nights in Morocco to $177,600 for a group of six spending four nights in the Bolivian salt flats. “Neither of these are including airfare, but Black Tomato can arrange flights from anywhere in the world,” he said.
And while these sample bills were both representative of group trips, Blink is as appropriate for couples as it is for larger affairs. “I can see a lot of proposals and engagements happening with Blink,” Marchant half-joked. “The concept works on many levels: honeymooners looking for the ultimate secluded and private experience, family groups looking to celebrate a milestone event or birthday, groups of friends looking to escape together.” After all, it’s as easy to create a single tent as it is to set up five domes or bubbles in a row for your own private pop-up lodge.
Regardless, each camp will be dismantled as soon as you leave — removing every last trace of its existence — and it’ll never be built the same way again. In other words: Blink, and you’ll miss it. “That’s what gets the hairs on the neck standing up,” said Marchant. “Right now travelers just talk about hotels and Airbnb. Just wait, in 10 years’ time there’s a chance people will be talking about this — semi-permanent tents — instead.”
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