Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Bespoke pop-up accommodations are the new ultimate in luxury travel
Imagine staying in an ultra-luxurious hotel, customised by you, in one of the most ethereal places on this planet. It could be a dome tent with local furnishings on the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, or a see-through bubble in the Atacama Desert, Chile—all complete with staff and meals. When your stay ends, your camp vanishes, leaving no trace that you were there.
This is the premise behind Blink, the new bespoke service from high-end adventure and travel agency Black Tomato, which has offices in the UK and New York, and customers from around the globe. Here, “bespoke” doesn’t refer to the sort of mix-and-match concept that many companies often pass off as customisation. You get to choose everything—right down to minute details such as bath products, the design of your bedlinen, the wine in your cellar. If that seems like too much work, you can always leave it to Blink’s travel experts to come up with ideas based on your preferences and any chosen destination or type of environment.
Need a sommelier? Spa therapist? Yoga instructor? No problem. Such specialists can be flown in to complement local teams who set up and staff camps. As for luxe mod cons beyond plush beds with high-quality sheets and en-suite bathrooms? “We can also ship in free-standing bathtubs or walk-in showers with hot water. Even a spa tent or solar-powered hammam and sauna,” says a Blink spokesperson.
The outfit, which launched in December 2016, isn’t the only one to offer luxurious pop-up shelters with amenities and services more often seen in five-star hotels. Ever since glamping became a 21st century buzzword—made popular by glamorous fans such as supermodel Kate Moss—creative companies have come up with ever more stylish forms of temporary accommodation for the well-heeled.
Frequently seen on the UK and European festival circuits are glamping tents, Airstream trailers and luxury yurts set up by The Pop-Up Hotel, a UK-based outfit that specialises in impermanent accommodation for specific events, be they public or private. Service is deliberately laidback, and things like breakfast hampers and meals by local providers can be arranged.
In Australia, similar services are offered by Flash Camp, which most recently set up a summer-only full-service hotel at Byron Bay in northern New South Wales. Meanwhile, US-based Collective Retreats rolls out moveable luxury tents in three states, calling them “inspiring destinations where you could never build a traditional hotel”. Think lush set-ups complete with chandeliers and king-sized beds covered in 1,500-thread-count linen, not to mention gourmet meals freshly prepared by chefs using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. In the works are camps in Sonoma wine region and Texas hill country, where visitors can ride on horseback to wineries and distilleries in the area.
Even the world’s largest hotel chain has dipped into the pop-up action. In April, Marriott offered eight luxurious, air-conditioned safari-style tents at Coachella, the popular music festival in California’s Colorado Desert. Each tent was set up like a room in the spirit of the various brands under the group’s umbrella. Just like at a regular hotel, they came complete with premium beds, room service and private restrooms. Guests secured stays by bidding using their loyalty points.
Still, the most extreme form of glamping yet must belong to Blink. Creature comforts aside, it offers clients immersive excursions. For instance, on a stay by Langisjór Lake in the Central Highlands of Iceland (only accessible by super jeep or ATV), you can explore the glacial lagoon with local geologists by day. By night, chase the northern lights on a quad bike safari or stargaze with an astronomer. Depending on your destination, you can also opt for cultural experiences, such as cooking lessons with a chef or private tours of a local village.
Hot water and energy for its camps are powered by green-energy sources such as solar and wind. “We want the natural environment to be left in the pristine state it was in before the camp was constructed,” says the Blink spokesperson. “As soon as our guests leave, our team will remove all trace of it ever being there—all in line with the notion of ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’.”
Not least is the staggering number of possible trip options Blink offers: A whopping 751,074,508,800, to be exact (or so the company says). With a selection like that, it’s likely that once a camp is gone, no one will ever be able to experience the same thing again. That is true luxury indeed.