Melissa Biggs Bradley of Indagare on Today’s Luxury Traveler Destination
Where is the 1% on vacation this year? And what exotic locations have they already booked for 2022? Just ask Melissa Biggs Bradley, the entrepreneur behind Indagare, the member-only boutique travel company she founded in 2007. Manhattan-based Indagare has become the go-to advisor and resource for travelers seeking meaningful and unique trips.
I have known Melissa since her days in City & Countryside, where she was the longtime travel editor and launched Travel in town and in the countryside. At Indagare, she’s not only the go-to guru of the well-heeled and well-traveled ensemble, but also started Indagare Insider Journeys, immersive group trips built around art, fashion, design, style, wellness, food and wine and unique destinations, in partnership with WSJ Magazine, Architectural summary and Vogue. I caught up with her the other day before she left for Paris.
Everett Potter: Melissa, summer 2021 was supposed to be an amazing time to travel, but given current Covid-19 restrictions, this is more of a beginning and end affair. That said, some people get the most out of it. Where have you sent Indagare clients?
Melissa Biggs Bradley: Me and a lot of our members have traveled. You definitely need to be prepared to jump through the hoops with new forms and required Covid testing and be more flexible as the rules keep changing or remain unclear – and hours of operation and the ability to make reservations and levels. of service are not what they used to be. However, having traveled internationally and domestically recently, early arrivals, as I call them, are rewarded with fewer people and an incredibly warm welcome. I can say from experience that in my lifetime, the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech and the Masai Mara in Kenya have never been so free of visitors. It is therefore a unique moment and one that we may not see again. This summer, we have seen our members flock to the Northeast, the American West and Alaska but also to Greece, Iceland, Kenya and Rwanda and they are making reservations in France, Italy, in the Caribbean and Mexico.
EP: Some travel agencies have said that while international travel is possible in 2021, their real goal is to focus on 2022. This certainly seems to be true for segments like five-star small-ship cruise lines, which have become quickly sold. many 2022 itineraries. Which destinations with luxury accommodation are shaping up to be hot spots next year?
MBB: We are still seeing strong demand for this summer, although many places in the US are already fully booked. Last minute travelers to Europe and Africa are rewarded with space in places that normally have to be booked years in advance, but, yes, we also see a lot of people planning for 2022 and even 2023. Our relationship to time and travel appears to have been impacted in many ways by the Covid. First, since we’ve all been forced to spend long periods of time in one place, I think we’ve gotten used to being less frantic, and now people want less frantic trips, so they choose to go to a destination and go. stay longer instead of moving around a plot. I also think we all had to look to the longer term in the future and so now setting aside two or three years just gives us a foothold in the future. We have never seen such solid and forward-looking bookings. I would say there are three buckets of popular destinations. National highlights such as the Grand Canyon, Jackson Hole, Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming. Then there are the classics of the first comeback, like the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Venice, Paris and London. Finally, there are unforgettable places, such as Egypt, Peru, the Galapagos, Antarctica, Jordan and Cambodia. People have had their travel dreams put off and so if they can’t make them come true tomorrow, they at least want to schedule them now.
EP: Are there any particular areas that high-end adventure travel and safari companies are considering for 2022?
MBB: The pandemic has brought to light the wealth divide between various countries, and so places where travel dollars have a major impact on conservation and community empowerment are of increasing interest to us. We have stepped up our focus on sustainability and the purpose of our travels. For example, we have created sustainable ‘impact’ trips to Antarctica and the Galapagos in partnership with Dow Jones, where our trips are carbon neutral and a portion of the proceeds goes to fund important work based on the needs of that region. . As travel became possible in some locations again after the first wave of Covid closures, we were the first US tour operator to take US travelers overseas with small-group trips to Rwanda in November and Kenya in January, focused on conservation and community empowerment. We are seeing the popularity of these Impact trips increase, and in response we are launching them in places like Bolivia, Mongolia, Botswana, Namibia and Jordan.
EP: We know villa rentals are all the rage, but do you see a demand for villas after 2021?
MBB: Villas have always been popular with those looking for the ultimate in privacy, well-being and seclusion and that will continue, but in the short term I see people who want to feel the festive atmosphere of ‘a hotel and a complex. They have been isolated long enough and yearn for a sense of normalcy as well as, in higher terms, a global community and exchange.
EP: The trips people envision for 2022 appear to be longer and more complicated, which isn’t surprising, considering how long travelers have been stuck at home. What are some extravagant trips that Indagare has planned for its clients?
MBB: We see larger groups of friends and multigenerational families traveling. Members use travel as a way to get together and connect with family and loved ones. In addition, we attend many festive and memorable trips in large groups. We have inquiries and reservations for large private yacht rentals in the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. There are luxury lodge takeovers, like Eleven Experience’s Deplar farm in Iceland and the Viks property in Chile, or private adventure sports and camping experiences in the Alps, as well as takeovers of properties. ‘private islands. There is a dream attitude.
People plan in advance to schedule their next bucket list trips, like an Africa safari, boat rentals in the Galapagos and Antarctica, by going to French Polynesia.
We see people continuing to look to privacy and also people who travel less often but for longer and with all the bells and whistles attached. A sort of ‘I want to do it right / big’ mentality. So no more private charter flights, fully staffed villas, special access / big ticket tours, and even game drives that historically included one or two destinations. We now have several safaris planned for 2022 that include three, four and even five countries.
We have members who were supposed to travel to Japan for the Olympics but are missing, so we have increased interest in major sporting events from 2022, including the Super Bowl and beyond.
We have quite a few families planning family sabbaticals that will last for several months, and others taking extended trips to multiple destinations so they can catch up with family and friends here and there. And many more who are planning rentals for months at a time.