The November debut is the latest touchpoint for the private membership-based luxury travel platform, a service that prides itself on being “very bespoke, very personal,” Joan Roca, chief executive officer and founder, says.
Essentialist was founded in 2017 to address a particular challenge in the digital era: While there may be plenty of tools that can arrange airfare, hotel, transportation, excursions and more, the effort is typically frustrating and resulting trips tend to be fragmented. “Travel, particularly luxury travel, is the most complex lifestyle service in the world,” he continues. “Different families will travel differently, with different people, passions and interests.”
The journey begins with the company learning about each of its members. The process is reminiscent of the way fashion platforms get acquainted with shoppers, with their unique interests and tastes informing recommendations. The difference is that, instead of personalizing outfits, Essentialist offers made-to-measure travel experiences, with members’ love of museums, shopping, farm-to-table dining or other activities informing the itineraries, which are crafted from among more than 950 global destinations.
These aren’t everyday tourist stops, according to Roca, but highly selective lists of rarified experiences. The roster runs the gamut: Art lovers can arrange to meet the great nephew of Pablo Picasso, while foodies may delight in meeting chef Julien Royer and dining at his Michelin-starred restaurant Odette in Singapore. Fashionistas can connect with a milliner commissioned by celebrities from Meghan Markle to Lady Gaga, or even score a seat at fashion week in Milan, depending on the timing.
The notable journeys range from refined experiences to exclusive, off-the-beaten-path excursions. The goal is to deliver the ultimate luxury travel experience, whatever that means for the individual client. “If you like cycling, we can connect you to someone who used to run the Tour de France,” Roca says. “It’s going to be amazing.”
While there are perks that can be had and special arrangements with premiere hotels — there are more than 1,500 in its database worldwide — scoring deals is not the point of Essentialist. The $2,600 annual fee grants access to a club that’s designed to inspire and serve. The platform provides editorial content and picks from more than 200 travel editors and local experts to stir the imagination and showcase its database of creative offerings. The platform then customizes individual arrangements to suit the traveler.
Of course, getting there is a separate expense, as memberships do not include airfare, lodging and excursion. But once en route, the company offers 24-7 support.
The new mobile app expands on the convenience. At home, members can request information and view sample itineraries to help in their decision-making. Users can bookmark favorites for future travel plans, and every interaction helps the platform understand more about the member’s tastes and preferences. Artificial intelligence steps in to help match them with available offerings, which are then fine-tuned. Members receive a customized proposal and once they make their final selections, a Member Experience Manager books the itinerary.
Roca claims Essentialist enjoys loyalty from thousands of members, although he declined to reveal total membership. The new app makes the platform more accessible in more places, turning it into something of a constant companion — whether its travelers are dreaming of their next getaway or already on it.