SPOTLIGHT ON: Tom Marchant, Owner, and Co-Founder of The Black Tomato Group

By: Sharon Hirschowitz

Tom prefers to do things differently, and The Black Tomato Group is an extension of his philosophy, creating bespoke travel experiences that start with the dream and discover the destination on the way. Here he talks about truly connecting, engaging and creating experiences that are transformative, and tells us about some favorite travel destinations you’ll want to visit.

The ethos of travel has changed so much in the last few years, and highly customized, unique and “off-the-beaten-path” experiences are far more in demand.  Is the next step to find more meaning? Where is the luxury travel space going with the idea of Earned Experiences?

What drives us to disconnect in a highly connected world is exactly that – to find more meaning. Earned Experiences cut to the heart of this sentiment – in order to truly discover ourselves in an honest and genuine light, we need to enter the unknown, push our own boundaries and allow all distractions to melt away. Off-the-beaten-path travel experiences provide a chance for unfettered self-discovery, and the majestic beauty of these remote destinations becomes all the more eye-opening and transformative.

What is driving travelers to make the choices they make?

People today want and expect more from their travels. Travel is no longer simply an opportunity to visit a new place, rather it’s a mindset — a rare chance to push personal boundaries in ways that we generally don’t have the ability to in our day-to-day lives. Travelers want to be transformed by their experiences, they want to be the first to experience off-the-beaten-path, emerging destinations, and they want to truly immerse themselves in local culture along the way. They seek out operators and destinations that can facilitate this type of once-in-a-lifetime trip. Of course, travelers still love the perennial favorites when it comes to destinations, but there’s a huge and undeniable fascination with the unknown right now that shows no sign of slowing down.

Are there any destinations or “experiences” that are favorites amongst your clientele?

Iceland is one of the most popular and with good reason. While at once an otherworldly enclave, far removed from the bustle of everyday life, it’s easily accessible, wondrously beautiful and can be fully experienced in a few days. Rejkavik is a hotbed of creativity and artistic freedom, from brilliant restaurants, boutique design hotels, and well-curated shops, the Nordic town serves as a perfect base to explore off-the-grid, adventurous Iceland. Whether it’s husky sledding across the white expanses of Skalafell, or life-changing heli-skiing on the summit of the Troll Peninsula, there’s something for everyone. The “Land of Fire and Ice” is unlike any other and a destination that cannot be missed.

What do you think that you are doing differently (and successfully)?

At Black Tomato, our aim has always been to do everything differently. We don’t believe in packaged or predictable experiences. Instead of starting with a set destination, we encourage our guests to focus on what kind of experience they want, which in turn allows us to guide them to the ideal destination for that which they seek. Every single trip is bespoke and expertly curated by our travel experts ensuring that our client’s exact needs and desires are met. Our travel experts live and breathe these places so we know how best to avoid tourist traps and obvious cookie-cutter experiences. We’re always obsessed with digging out the next big thing in terms of new destinations and ways to get under the skin of fantastic places.

Are luxury hotels and resorts getting it right, when it comes to offering unique, destination specific experiences? What are your clients telling you?

Absolutely – but then again, we are in the business of partnering with the best of the best and these offerings are key in how we evaluate which luxury hotels to align with. To really get to the heart of a destination, to experience its culture, take in its smells, its sunsets, experiential offerings are essential. Our travelers aren’t the type who wants to lay on a beach for the entirety of their stay. They want to take a hand in their overall experience, customizing the trip so they can fully immerse themselves in everything that interests them. For the serious oenophile, we curate a marvelous trip to Argentina and Uruguay, where guests will meet some of the most notable winemakers behind the storied houses, including horseback riding through the vineyard, wine blending and replete with stays at some of the most magnificent estate properties that we know of.

Can you tell us about a recent trip you made that took you to a new place, both literally and figuratively?

I recently took a trip to Cuba, a destination that’s receiving a lot of attention at the moment. Cuba is one of those places that totally challenges previous perceptions, so working with a trusted operator who can offer an insider experience into the reality of Cuba today is essential. What really surprised me was the amount of progressive art and culture that Havana offered. For travelers interested in art and design, Cuba, and Havana especially, is a hot-house for emerging talent. We visited Havana´s Higher Institute of Art where many current students who have not yet graduated are already producing extraordinary work. Our local expert guides arranged for us to visit the students’ home studios to meet these raw talents and enjoy their work up close and personal. This is a real insider’s view of the incredibly powerful art that’s coming out of this region right now. Outside of Havana the landscapes of eastern Cuba are definitely worth visiting and offer travelers the chance to experience the sizzling melting pot of cultures in the former capital, Santiago de Cuba.

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