Melissa Biggs Bradley from Indagare on where luxury travelers are going now

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Where is the one percent on vacation this year? And what exotic locations have they already booked for 2022? Just ask Melissa Biggs Bradley, the entrepreneur behind it To research, the member-only boutique travel company she founded in 2007. The Manhattan-based Indagare has become a go-to advisor and resource for travelers looking for meaningful, unique travel.

I have known Melissa since her days at City and country, where she was the longtime travel editor and launched City and country travel. At Indagare, she is not only the go-to guru for the well-heeled, well-traveled set, but also started Indagare Insider Journeys, immersive group travel built around art, fashion, design, style, wellness, food and wine and unique destinations in collaboration with WSJ Magazine, Architectural digestion and Vogue. I caught her the other day before she left for Paris.

Everett Potter: Melissa, the summer of 2021 was meant to be a great time to travel, but given the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, it’s been more of a start-and-stop affair. That said, some people really do make the most of it. Where did you send Indagare clients?

Melissa Biggs Bradley: I and many of our members have been traveling. You should definitely be willing to jump through hangers with new forms and required Covid tests and be more flexible as the rules continue to change or remain unclear – and opening hours and the ability to make reservations and service levels are not what they used to to be. After traveling internationally and recently, the first returnees, as I call them, are rewarded with smaller crowds and incredibly warm welcome. I can say from first-hand experience that the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech and the Masai Mara in Kenya have never been so free of visitors in my lifetime – so it’s a unique moment and we may not experience it 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 reserving reservations in France, Italy, the Caribbean and Mexico.

EP: Some travel companies have basically come out and said that while international travel is possible in 2021, their real focus is on 2022. This certainly seems to be true for segments like the five-star cruise ships with small ships that has sold out many 2022 travel plans. Which destinations with luxury accommodation are becoming hot spots next year?

MBB: We’re still seeing a lot of demand this summer, even though many places in the US are already fully booked. Last minute travelers to Europe and Africa are rewarded with space in places that you usually have to book years in advance – but yes, we also see many people planning into 2022 and even 2023. Our relationship to time and travel seems to be been influenced in several ways by Covid. Since we were all forced to spend long periods in one place, I think we are used to being less crazy, and now people want fewer crazy trips, so they choose to go to a destination and stay longer instead of move around in mass. I also think we all had to look further into the future, and now that we are booking two or three years out, it only gives us an anchor in the future to look forward to. We have never seen such robust forward bookings. I would say there are three buckets of popular destinations. Domestic highlights like the Grand Canyon, Jackson Hole, Alaska, Montana and Wyoming. Then there are classics with first returns, such as the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Venice, Paris and London. Finally, there are local tours, such as Egypt, Peru, Galapagos, Antarctica, Jordan and Cambodia. People have had their travel dreams postponed and if they can not reach them tomorrow, they will at least plan them now.

EP: Are there any special areas that exclusive travel companies and safari companies are looking at in 2022?

MBB: The pandemic has focused on the prosperity gap between different countries, and therefore places where travel dollars have a major impact on conservation and social power are increasingly of interest to us. We have increased our focus on sustainability and purpose in our trips. For example, we have created sustainable “impact” trips to Antarctica and the Galápagos in partnership with the Dow Jones, where our trip is carbon neutral and part of the proceeds goes to fund important work in accordance with the area’s needs. When travel became possible again in some places after the first wave of Covid closures, we were the first American tour operator to take American travelers abroad on small group trips to Rwanda in November and to Kenya in January, which focused on conservation and social power We are seeing the popularity of these Impact tours grow and in response we are launching them in places like Bolivia, Mongolia, Botswana, Namibia and Jordan.

EP: We know villa rentals are hot, but do you imagine a demand for villas after 2021?

MBB: Villas have always been popular with those seeking the ultimate in privacy, pampering and isolation, and it will continue, but in the short term I see people wanting to feel the festive atmosphere of a hotel and resort. They have been isolated long enough and want a sense of normality as well as in more elevated terms global society and exchange.

EP: The trips that people are looking towards towards 2022 seem to be longer and more complicated, which is not surprising considering how long the travelers have been sitting at home. What are some of the over-the-top trips that Indagare has planned for clients?

MBB: We see larger groups of friends and families with several generations traveling. Members use travel as a way to reunite and connect with family and loved ones. In addition, we see a lot of large group festive and milestone trips. We have requests and bookings for large private yacht charters in the Mediterranean and the Aegean. There are luxury cabin acquisitions such as 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 private island acquisitions. There is a dream big attitude.

People plan ahead to get their further traveled forest list trips planned, such as an African safari, chartering both in the Galapagos and Antarctica, going to French Polynesia.

We see people continue to pull towards privacy and also people who travel less frequently but for longer periods of time and with all the bells and whistles attached. A kind of ‘I want to do it right / big’ mentality. So several private charter flights, fully manned villas, special access / large ticket excursions and even safaris that historically included one or two destinations. We have now planned several safaris in 2022 that include three, four and even five countries.

We have members who were to travel to Japan for the Olympics, but lack it, so we have increased interest in major sporting events in 2022 and beyond, including the Super Bowl and beyond

We have quite a few families who plan family sabbaticals that last several months and others who take extended trips to multiple destinations so they can catch up with family and friends here and there. And many more who plan rentals for several months at a time.

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