“A luxury accommodation experience that can exist and be enjoyed for a brief moment, never to be replicated again” – this is the challenge Tom Marchant, James Merrett and Matt Smith set their award-winning travel agency Black Tomato last year after noticing a rise in the number of people seeking highly personalised experiences in remote locations. It’s a brief that many operators would likely bypass, given the difficulty in finding areas of natural beauty not yet colonised by the travel industry. Then there’s the logistics of creating complex campsites in isolated areas that blend seamlessly with the natural surroundings, while providing guests with all the creature comforts and activities they desire. But Black Tomato is not your average travel agency and its latest service, Blink, is proof of just how unique, private and customisable paradise can be.
Launched almost a decade ago when the travel-loving trio – all friends – turned their backs on the corporate world, Black Tomato specialises in tailor-made experiences for clients worldwide, with offices in London and New York. “We didn’t want to go about things like everyone else in the travel world,” says Marchant of his company, which has since spawned a handful of similar travel brands with different sub-specialties, such as Epic Tomato for expedition-led adventures. “The aim from the very beginning has been to play the part of a good friend who also happens to be in the know and ahead of the game regarding where to go and what to do.”
It’s this approachability that makes a service like Blink, introduced at the end of 2016, not only possible but irresistibly easy and undeniably fun: clients fill out an online room service-style menu then sit back while the expert team puts together ideas for a perfect trip. Perhaps you already have a location in mind that you’d like to visit or the kind of tented accommodation you’d be most comfortable in – for many guests, the allure of Blink is in the bespoke nature of every detail, from the type of cuisine, bedroom layout or lighting they’d prefer on site, to the view they want to wake up to and the sort of experiences they want to have while they’re away. And for those who wonder how luxurious a campsite cut off from the rest of the world can be, the optional extras don’t end with WiFi – on-site spas, private yoga instructors, wellness gurus, sommeliers, mixologists and chefs can all be incorporated to make your stay more enjoyable. The hardest part is choosing where to go.
“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 in Iceland that’s barely been explored – Blink aims to get clients off the grid for a one-of-a-kind travel experience,” explains Marchant.
Of course, not everyone knows the precise site, country or even hemisphere they’d like to visit. For some, it’s more of an abstract desire to be ‘stranded in a forest’ or ‘somewhere by the sea’. It’s with these clients that the team can flex its intrepid ambitions, inspiring guests with a selection of already handpicked secluded locations around the world, from deserts and glaciers to jungles and lakes.
Imagine waking up inside a traditional Mongolian yurt in the middle of the Sajama National Park in Bolivia, or falling asleep under the starry skies of Chile’s Atacama Desert inside a partially transparent bubble tent – two examples the team likes to call upon, with prices ranging from £8,800 to £23,800 per person (based on a group of six staying for three to four nights). “Blink is available anywhere in the world where we can transport the tents and materials, while offering true remoteness and a place that only that individual will enjoy in that way,” says Marchant.
At the end of your stay, the campsite is packed away, leaving no trace of your time there to ensure that the natural environment remains in its perfect state. Your Blink experience is yours and yours alone, says the team, never to be offered in the same way to anyone else. Is this the ultimate luxury in today’s heavily commodified world of travel?
Marchant believes so. “As people constantly search for or seek to redefine what the definition of true luxury is, Blink, in our eyes, represents what it should be,” he says.