Group travel is a mixed bag — some love it, others not so much. One luxury tour operator wants to design group travel itineraries suited to individual needs but intended to create a lasting impact within the group.
Luxury tour operator Black Tomato has unveiled a new small-group tour travel product, “See You In The Moment.” Black Tomato has seen a 35% increase in demand for group-oriented itineraries since 2019, especially for multi-gen families or large groups of friends, according to Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato.
He said groups of eight or more accounted for 30% of all bookings in 2023. And he noted that a key trend has been adventure, with nearly half of bookings reflecting what he called an “adventurous desire for intrepid luxury.”
Some of the biggest pain points of group travel include a need for more flexibility with timing or experiences.
“More off-the-shelf group trip offerings follow fixed departures and rigid shared itineraries, where all parties meet at the same time each day and follow the same schedule and tours, regardless of nuanced personal preferences and interests,” said Marchant.
Black Tomato uses travel experts who work with each individual to arrange tailored, flexible programming, said Marchant: “All logistics from flights to hotels to guided experiences.”
Seminal Shared Experience
Black Tomato recently worked with a group of nine friends traveling to Iceland. The group had a broad selection of interests, with some wanting active outdoor adventures like horseback riding and seeing the Northern Lights, while others wanted to explore the city of Reykjavik and taste Icelandic cuisine.
“They wanted to see the best of the country in four nights, but most importantly, spend meaningful time together that allowed flexibility for programming and experiences,” said Marchant.
The itinerary allowed each of them to do their preferred activities before coming together for “See You In The Moment” group experience, said Marchant, “For their seminal shared experience on the third day, we timed scenic helicopter flights to the far north of the Troll Peninsula, arriving together at a stunningly remote hidden hot spring and then the next two nights [were] spent at Deplar Farm, for a tailored combination of adventure and relaxation.”
The time frame is completely flexible, though 2023 bookings to date show average trip lengths have been five nights. Given the bespoke nature of ‘See You in the Moment,’ Marchant said costs range from the low-five figures to six figures, with numerous variables impacting the overall price, including destination, group size, duration, accommodations, and overall programming – from a single day experience to multi-day treks.
The development of the new group travel product also led to one of his own memorable moments, scouting the Apurimac Rive with his co-founder, James Merrett.
“I’m completely blown away by both the remoteness and the access we’ve developed here, and camping out on the shores of this extraordinarily powerful river felt poignant and one we want our travelers to share with those who matter most. Experiencing these untouched parts of Peru felt both pioneering and deeply humbling.”
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