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Episode 6. Tom Marchant: Reshaping Luxury Travel

The Remarkable Podcast

“The four values of black tomato about being curious, being humble, being thoughtful and being remarkable and curiosity has driven everything”

To inspire (verb) – to enthuse, excite, animate and affect positive change or joy in people – this, to Tom Marchant, is the real potential of travel. Owner and co-founder of The Black Tomato Group, parent company of the travel brands Black Tomato and Epic Tomato, along with incentive agency The Black Tomato Agency and Studio Black Tomato, the award-winning content and strategy agency, Tom was named one of the 50 Most Influential People in British Luxury by Walpole in 2020. As the go-to consultants for ultra luxury travel experiences that are off the beaten track, not in the guidebook and/or truly immersive in local culture, Black Tomato plans tailored trips that will stir souls and possibly even change lives.

Your time is precious, your time off even more so. Such is one of the maxims of Black Tomato Group, co-founded in 2005 by three friends, passionate about travel and frustrated by the inadequate services on the market at the time. Curating and planning travel experiences in a completely new way, their idea was to build a travel company and brand that would truly reflect the passions, needs, desires and personalities of the clients. By incorporating both luxury and cultural immersion, Black Tomato guests could stay in magnificent accommodation while being encouraged and enabled to explore the essence of the places around them.

For The Remarkable podcast, Rebecca Jago chats to Black Tomato’s Tom Marchant, who in the time since founding the business has cemented his position in the British Travel Industry Hall of Fame, and frequently been identified in the media by publications such as Vogue, The NY Times, Conde Nast Traveller, Forbes and the FT as a leader in shaping the future of the luxury travel industry.

“When I was growing up, travel agents weren’t that inspiring,” says Tom. “There’s this industry whose job is to sell these amazing places; it should be the easiest sell in the world. But so many people were doing such a bad job at it, and we knew we could do better.”

One evening on a trip to Eastern Europe, Tom encountered the black tomato on a menu in a backstreet restaurant. When he asked about it, a proud local told him he should never pass up the chance to enjoy this ‘rare and wonderful’ tasting experience. Inspired by the moment, the friends resolved to become the Black Tomato of the travel world: a company offering rare and wonderful experiences. “We want your trip to represent exactly that same thing for you: a unique experience so personal and meaningful that you’ll remember it forever.”

The Black Tomato group – which also now incorporates Epic Tomato and Soster, a design agency – has launched a number of headline grabbing products such as Blink, offering the ultimate bespoke, pop-up luxury accommodations in remote parts of the world, and Get Lost, a program that sees clients taken to a mystery location. There they are challenged to totally disconnect, focus on the present and explore their way out. “We genuinely believe in the power of travel to move people, and change lives,” says Tom. “It’s about making it personal – the luxury is in part the level of thoughtfulness that goes into it, then travel can be a process of self-actualization, fulfilling those deeper needs.”

For many, luxury travel might simply mean reclining under a palm tree on an exquisite desert island, but while Black Tomato can certainly arrange that, it is in the truly immersive adventures that they excel, such as exploring the deep heart of Brazil or reading by starlight on the remote Mongolian-Manchurian steppe, hundreds of miles from another soul. “In recent years we’ve all been reassessing ideas of luxury,” says Tom. “Rarity and uniqueness can be as important as lavish comfort – and the most important luxury of all? Time. We are here to help you lean into a place and ensure the most wonderful, special experience in whatever time you have.”

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