As governments in Europe start lifting their lockdown measures imposed to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic we wanted to pose 4 questions to Ricardo Araujo, founder of Ariodante Luxury Travel about the present and future projects of the company.
Q - It has been a few months since countries around the world started closing their borders and imposing unprecedented measures in order to fight the pandemic. Now that there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel and borders start reopening, how is your current state of mind and how do you see the foreseeable future of Ariodante and, more broadly of the travel industry?
We live indeed through incredibly challenging times, not only for the travel industry but for each one of us. Covid-19 in a way changed us and I think we will be seeing changes to our way of living for months, possibly years to come.
The travel industry is perhaps the sector that will face the biggest challenges and sadly, it seems we are just at the beginning of a bigger crisis. In my opinion, the biggest challenge is how to learn to live with this virus for a very long time and how to adapt.
Because we are a very niche agency extremely specialised, we are very optimistic about the future. Our members and clients need us even more as we are among the very few companies in the world capable of creating this kind of ultra-luxury travel experiences and we are unique in our positioning in the art world. This is why people come to us and why all our clients are still with us despite the current travel restrictions. They seek real meaningful travel experiences and that's our speciality.
Like for everyone else, all our trips are on hold at the moment, mostly small travel experiences but we are confident we can resume most of them as they are all completely bespoke travel experiences crafted according to each client’s passions and dreams. When it comes to larger tours, they are all simply postponed.
As for our projects, we do have a lot indeed.
Q- Could you tell us more about those projects and about where Ariodante Travel is now heading?
Even before all this situation, we were noticing a genuine desire from our members and clients to have really meaningful trips. As an example, we’ve seen more people asking us for our Heritage Experience as the idea of making a real difference by giving away a fraction of the price of the experience to support a cultural project is something they genuinely care about.
The good thing about this pandemic is that we found ourselves with a lot of time to pursue ideas and projects we were dreaming of doing without having the time to really work on them.
One of those was to create Nature Experiences with the same model as our Heritage Experience. The only difference we will be supporting conservation projects to make a real difference and help to safeguard our precious planet.
We spoke with several NGOs working in different fields and now we are able to create some experiences and tours with our own version of eco-tourism. It could be travelling to discover the last pollution-free rivers in Europe with world-leading experts or getting close to an endangered specie and see first-handed the incredible work scientists and NGOs are doing to prevent their extinction.
Then we worked on one of my all-time dreams: Sabbaticals. Life-changing several months (or years?) trips combining culture, history, arts and nature to explore in deep something we love. This is, of course, an enormous challenge and we had to create a system allowing us not only to create an itinerary of epic proportions (that’s the easiest part) but most of all to follow everything so the people travelling will have the same refinement and perfection as with our small travel experiences.
An ultra-luxury sabbatical is not just about booking 5 stars hotels and chartering the most expensive yacht and private jet. It’s about flawless perfection where every single detail is where it should be and how it should be. It is finding a replica of a 16th century Spanish Caravel and having it sailing so the client can experience first-handed what it was to sail with Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic. It is ensuring the right wardrobe is in the right place so you can always have the right clothes for the right situation. It's planning ahead so our client can attend a board meeting online while travelling in Mongolia on the footsteps of Marco Polo or the right private tutor the children.
Q- This is really extraordinary and what a challenge indeed! But how can you create such long and complex trips with the current uncertainty, especially when travelling outside Europe?
That’s, of course, an additional challenge for this kind of very long vacations but it is also true for even very small travel experiences. It is paramount to keep everyone safe but also to be able to postpone something if, for any reason, a government or a local authority has to impose new restrictive measures.
On top of closely monitoring the situation in each country, we spent a lot of time exploring many options and ways to achieve this “need of security” until we came up with what we think are the right measures. Although most of our travel experiences consist of luxurious private visits away from the crowds, we still worked on additional health measures to improve our service.
First, we decided to create a Health Manager position for every single experience, no matter its size or length. This Health Manager will be responsible for all the health and safety procedures related to Coronavirus and all kind of diseases. He will ensure the perfect hygiene, enforce social distancing at all times (even in the kitchen when we make a private dining experience in a museum for example), check everyone is wearing a mask and the required PPE as well as controlling everyone's health (temperature, showing symptoms or representing the slightest risk).
Second, we have reached out to doctors (and nurses) in every region where we usually work so we can always have a doctor close-by for any emergency or to prescribe a test if we need it. Therefore, we will have either a full-time doctor with us if the clients desire or a trusted doctor everywhere where we will be.
The last health measure is simple. We will be doubling all the people we need for each experience so we can always have a backup solution in case someone shows symptoms or simply represent a risk. This will allow us to minimise, as much as possible, any risk of contagion for everyone.
Then, in order to have a backup solution if the client or someone of his household gets sick or if new restrictive measures put in place, we will be also offering a “2nd date booking” option. This will allow our members and clients to have a 2nd date booked in case something happens and we are forced to cancel the initial date.
Q- Finally, could you tell us a bit more about Ariodante new and improved Green-Initiative?
We’ve always been concerned by the environment and, although working in the luxury industry, we believe it is possible to always do more and better.
This is why, on top of doing our best to always reduce our carbon emissions by choosing the most efficient private jets and vehicles and working with providers doing the same, we have decided to go way beyond this.
Since we signed the Clear Ocean Pact in 2019 aiming at reducing as much as possible the use of plastic, we have worked through applying this pact to everything we do (even when not on a yacht). Our goal in 2020 has been to eliminate all the plastic we can, especially single-use plastic items and replace them with sustainable alternatives.
Now we are also reviewing hundreds of agreements we have with our providers to make sure they follow this commitment. If we work hard to achieve this goal of plastic-free experiences and tours and, behind our back, one of our providers is using the same amount of plastic as before in our experience then it’s all pointless. This is why we want to be consistent and enforce our commitment.
Then, we will be offsetting the carbon footprint of each experience we create. This is no easy task as it adds a new layer of complexity to our work but we all believe it is worth it so we decided to move forward.
This means all our travel experiences, tours and sabbaticals starting from June 2020 will be Carbon Positive as we will be offsetting all our carbon emissions. Whatever it is a private jet, a superyacht, a helicopter, simple cars or a private visit to a museum, we will be calculating all our carbon emissions and then, offsetting them at least by 200%. All this money will be invested in certified conservation projects through our partners Vertis and Sustainable International Travel.
By doing this, on top of our Heritage and Nature Experiences, we hope other luxury travel companies will see luxury can perfectly be sustainable and that it is our duty to do as much as we can for our planet.