Rich people love to travel as much as the rest of us. In fact, it’s a favourite hobby among billionaires.
But when the 1% travel, the word takes on an entirely new meaning.
“Travel is the currency of status; it’s far more about the experiences you have as opposed to whether you’re driving the latest Rolls Royce or whether your wife has the latest Hermès handbag,” said Anthony Lassman, cofounder of London-based luxury travel- and lifestyle-management company Nota Bene Global, in a recent interview with Business Insider.
Lassman and his wife Elaine launched Nota Bene — meaning “note well” or “take note” in Italian — in 2005 to offer tailor-made, travel-planning services to the ultra high net worth crowd. The Lassmans drew knowledge from their careers as publishers of premier travel and destination review guides as well as several years selling high-end real estate.
Nota Bene serves clients with net worths upwards of $200 million, with several in the billion-dollar range. Lassman describes them as “cash rich and time poor” — those seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences who don’t have the time to research and plan to the degree that suits them.
Increasingly, clients are coming from “Silicon Valley kind of money,” Lassman said. They’re people who made money in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s who push boundaries in order to have unique experiences.
“People who have striven really hard, and achieved really hard, are risk takers,” Lassman said. These businesspeople tend to take more risks in their travel, and it’s often thanks to the flexibility and security of their wealth. They place their safety — and their money — in the hands of Lassman and his team.
For about $26,000 annually, clients enlist Nota Bene to plan, book, and manage every detail of their travels.
“In the same way that an asset manager manages private wealth, we manage time and experience. We manage curated experiences,” Lassman said.
Nota Bene operates in two ways: Clients either approach Nota Bene with destination requests and the company crafts detailed itineraries for them, or Note Bene presents once-in-a-lifetime experiences to clients based on their travel research of what’s trending.
Nota Bene’s range of possibility is virtually endless and includes experiences like flying privately from Cape Town, South Africa, to Antarctica; taking a private jet through Rajasthan, India, at dawn to glimpse the Taj Mahal before the overbearing crowds gather; and lunching with the Louis Roederer family at their private estate in France’s Champagne country.
But no matter the destination or experience they seek, Lassman noted that his wealthy clients always expect two things: exclusive access and one-step-ahead service.
1. Exclusive access
The Lassmans have spent 30 years in travel and real estate cultivating connections with hotel managers, restaurants, tour guides, experts, and businesses around the globe. Their connections grant their clients access to exclusive destinations and events in both the world’s largest cities and far-off corners.
“We have one estate that comes with a private plane and a helicopter and it’s on Mount Kenya — 3,000 feet above the Great Rift Valley. You wake up in the morning and [the staff] will say ‘What do you feel like doing?’ You can go to truly authentic markets, go fly fishing up on Mount Kenya … anything,” Lassman said.
Clients also turn to Nota Bene for access to world-renowned events, including couture fashion shows, the Grand Prix in Monaco, the Cannes Film Festival, the Oscars, and the Palio Di Siena horse race in Italy, where balcony seats cost €15,000 for the hourlong event.
As such, there are certain destinations that the wealthiest tend to frequent year after year. Lassman calls these places “the watering holes of the rich” and considers summer spots like Capri, St. Tropez, Mykonos, and the Mediterranean, and winter locations like Jackson Hole, Aspen, and San Moritz, among them.
“Access is key,” Lassman said. “There are very few things we can’t provide access to.”
2. Top-tier service
About one-third of Nota Bene’s approximately 150 clients belong to the company’s bespoke-level service with several opting to trade up from their lower-tier service, which costs $6,500 and grants access to online travel guides and generic travel planning but does not include the minute-by-minute management enjoyed at the bespoke level. The $22,000 annual fee for the bespoke service may seem steep to outsiders, but Lassman assures the price is justified.
“We’re tracking them every single day, we’re there for them. We’re in constant contact with them and the hotel behind the scenes,” Lassman said.
Perks of the top-tier service include private check-in rooms and frequent upgrades to suites at hotels, hand-selected welcome amenities, the option to ship luggage to and from destinations, arrangement of personal security services, and hand-picked staff teams, including chefs, housekeepers, and, if needed, childcare services or nannies.
Nota Bene’s travel managers spend time familiarising themselves with the habits and requests of each client to ensure they will meet their wants and needs.
“We’re always thinking one step ahead, preparing. It really is like putting on a great theatre performance — when the curtains go back it all has to be perfect.”