An Interview with Black Tomato Co-Founder Tom Marchant

By Paul Joseph

No company has been better placed to satisfy the evolving tastes and demands of discerning travellers of recent years than Black Tomato.

As adventure-seekers chase after increasingly unique journeys, the high-end bespoke travel company has carved out an unrivalled reputation for providing innovative and inspiring experiences for individuals, couples, families and groups.

We caught up with Black Tomato Co-Founder Tom Marchant to find out more about how the company is staying at the vanguard of luxury travel.

SY: Can you start by giving us a brief introduction to Black Tomato and the services you provide?

TM: “Black Tomato is an innovative, experiential, boundary-pushing company, we are experts in high-end bespoke travel. We design holidays to fulfil any client’s emotional need, rather than being destination lead. The Black Tomato team look at how travellers want to feel and they aim to reflect their personalities in their itineraries by them to meet those objectives.

How would you describe your average client in terms of their profile and geographical location?

“Black Tomato is aimed at individuals and families who are looking to escape the rat race of their day-to-day lives. Usually, our clients have ticked the ‘five-star luxury holiday’ box and are looking for something a little different to expand their horizons. We started the business 14 years ago and since, we've opened an additional office in New York, where a large percentage of business now comes from, but we also attract a truly global clientele.

Where are the current trends you’re noticing in terms of destination and types of experience people are seeking?

“As we prepare to enter a new decade, the world around us is in an uncertain place. One thing that remains certain is the need for travel and, people are doing so in record numbers. The global travel boom shows no sign of abating, and consumers are continuing to move away from traditional holidays towards more authentic, personal options.

“Black Tomato are starting to see that the ‘experience’ phenomenon is becoming ubiquitous, our consumers are becoming increasingly de-sensitised to. Brands are now having to go above and beyond and elevate their offering to meet the expectations of discerning clientele by offering ‘personal fulfilment’.

“For us, the new ‘experience economy’ charters a deeper course, where experience is synonymous with personal fulfilment and creating lasting change is the new luxury currency for clients. With this in mind, we launched Bring it Back, a series of seven immersive itineraries designed to spark existential epiphanies and help travellers become the person they aspire to be, addressing cornerstones of life, from creativity, entrepreneurialism, family and community, sustainability and wellness.

“With regards to the destination, we are seeing Europe’s ‘edgy’ destinations such as Armenia coming through. Armenia caters for the current appetite and interest in the Silk Road. In Antarctica, we are going beyond your usual cruising in with ice kayaking, snow-shoeing and the polar plunge.”

What can you tell us about your Bucket List feature?

“We’ve had years of experience helping people realise their bucket list travels. We know what it takes to make that kind of trip truly memorable but choosing the ultimate list of experiences and moments to do in a lifetime isn’t easy. That’s where our Bucket List services come in.

“With the help of a specialised Bucket List Manager, we’ll help you compile a list or fulfil one you’ve had scribbled down for years. Your list will be annually reviewed, taking season, budget, timings, age, destinations and any other variables into consideration to map out not just this or next year’s travels but many more to come.”

In what other ways has the demands of high-end travellers changed over the past 10 or 20 years?

“Travelling the world and visiting places in order to tick boxes is becoming less common. We are seeing increasing enquires from travellers keen to revisit their favourite destinations, to build on relationships formed, connect with communities and bring that knowledge home to apply in their day-to-day lives.

“Another demand we see changing the way high-end travellers travel is food. Although this strong driver isn’t new, food is a beloved lens into a culture and a driving force for tourism; in 2019 we saw a shift that will continue 2020 as we grow an even stronger relationship with food – that goes beyond an ingredient’s origins, sourcing and taste, to craving a deeper connection with the people and cultures behind the dishes that define destinations.”

How well do you think the luxury travel sector has dealt with the digital revolution?

“The digital revolution has been of huge benefit to the luxury travel sector. Rather than a threat, is has harnessed our trade and enhanced how we do business. Digital will never be as powerful as human touch and we find that digital doesn’t offer the same insight but, it serves as a great platform to begin conversation, and encourages people to stay in touch while presenting new opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible before.”

Finally, do you have anything in development at Black Tomato that you’d like to tell us about?

Back in October we launched ‘Every Cloud - in search of silver linings’. Based on the belief that travel can change not only an individual’s perspective but their lives, ‘Every Cloud’ is a competition seeking a curious traveller who will venture the world with Black Tomato, over the course of one year, to uncover the communities, experiences and places that lift spirits, and report back on the stories that ignite happiness, so they can be shared with the world.

“Black Tomato is handcrafting six all expenses paid, tailored journeys in 2020 all over the world for one individual who will embark on the ultimate journey of self-discovery and the experience of a lifetime, spanning many continents and time zones to explore a diversity of landscapes from bustling cities to remote mountain communities.

“The competition closed on 24th November but, once the winner has been announced, we can look forward to seeing content from all over the world which reaffirms that there is much good in the world and show off these joyful, happy moments. The winner will take notes, film and share these experiences in real-time. Black Tomato will be releasing these stories across all their channels and platforms throughout the year.”

By Paul Joseph