Targeting Your Niche: Made-to-Order Travel

Demand growing for customized and extreme adventures

By: R. Scott Macintosh

From space travel to mountain climbing, there is a world of high-end travel products available that cater to a growing luxury-travel market.

With the baby-boom generation approaching retirement, and many of them with the means to travel first-class, more people are not only taking extraordinary trips, but trips that are custom-made just for them.

The number of people coming to Geographic Expeditions (, a San Francisco-based tour operator specializing in luxury and adventure travel, for customized travel packages is increasing, according to company president, Jim Sano.

“They come to us with ideas, sometimes that we never thought of operating as trips, and start developing them,” he said. “Then we may use those as part of a new tour.”

Clients of Geographic Expeditions include corporations, universities, and even travel agencies.

The company has designed a range of elaborate excursions including a 480-day trip for one family as a part of a new concept of “road schooling” where parents take their children out of school for a time to travel the world as a part of their education.

The family, from Tulsa, Okla., traveled the entire world experiencing the trip and curriculum that Geographic Expeditions designed for their four children. The trip came with a price tag in the mid-six-figure range.

Other travel arrangements made by the company include relocating luxury yachts to obscure parts of the globe and getting permits from governments to land private aircraft on isolated airstrips.

Sometimes travel agents will come to the company for help on requests for unique travel, such as cultural tours with professors from prestigious universities or other countries.

“It’s all about customization at a high level,” said Sano.

Anastasia Mann with Los Angeles-based Corniche Group ( said private villas are increasingly popular among her clients, not only in more common locations such as Tuscany, Italy, and Provence, France, but all over the world.

Many are as extravagant as they come. The Villa Arabesque in Acapulco, Mexico, is a nine-bedroom beachfront villa that rents for $10,000 a day and comes with a staff of more than 50 people.

A client might also rent a Gulfstream jet at the going rate of $6,000 an hour, keeping it on hand to visit the Mayan ruins.

Corniche also boasts a tour operator in Tanzania that, in addition to tours, makes everything themselves for their guests including the tents and clothes.

For those who harbor dreams of climbing the highest peaks in the world, there are a number of tour operators who have begun specializing in mountaineering. Seattle-based tour operator, Alpine Ascents International ( leads a number of expeditions each year.

On the company’s “Seven Summits” expedition, clients climb the highest peaks on the seven continents.

A trip up Mount Everest in Nepal alone can cost $100,000. But it is recommended for only the most skilled mountaineers.

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