What happens when you are a travel agency and nobody is traveling?
With parents fretting about sending their kids to sleep away camps and unsure about their own vacation plans, one luxury travel advisory is jumping into the pool, so to speak.
After sensing a need and opportunity, New York-based Embark Beyond launched a novel idea, a private summer camp for your kids and and their close friends.
Camp Embark offers two to three families who know each other the opportunity to have their own summer camp programming for both kids and adults on a private basis.
“There was a lot of camp director and counselor talent that was out on the street because camps either weren’t happening or were hosting smaller groups,” says Jack Ezon, Embark’s founder.
At the same time, many of Embark’s clients were hesitant to send their children to camps with dozens if not hundreds of other kids, all coming from different places.
The Virtuoso travel agency is already known for its acumen in designing and organizing group celebrations, from private island takeovers at David Copperfield’s estate in the Bahamas to castles in Tuscany.
On Town & Country’s recent list of top travel agents, Ezon was cited as a go-to resource for more than a half dozen destinations from Namibia to U.S. National Parks.
Now he’s extending it to entertaining your kids, and it is already morphing into a big business, with over 100 bookings in less than a month.
The first idea was to partner with high-end resorts, ranches and ever superyachts. In a brochure, offerings range from Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, to The Lodge at Blue Sky in Park City, Utah, Grace Bay Private Villas in Turks & Caicos and The Lodge at Woodloch in New Jersey.
However, Ezon still found some clients who didn’t want to leave their homes. After brainstorming with his partner on the initiative, camp guru Lynda Levy, they came up with another twist. Camp Embark will come to your backyard.
For the resort venues, Ezon says Embark takes advantage of amenities and activities unique to that location, be it hiking, river rafting or typical summer camp activities. Working with his network of contacts, Embark then customizes the programming to the interests of your kids.
That could mean anything from procuring a world renown ballerina to hold twice weekly dance lessons to having a former NFL quarterback help your future stars tighten up their spirals.
While the pop-up camps at resorts last from one to four weeks, Ezon says the at-your-home versions are averaging eight weeks, with a starting price of just $3,500 per week for up to 10 kids.
Ezon says the switch from arranging private dinners at villas in Tuscany prepared by Michelin chefs to roasting marshmallows over a fire is not that big a stretch. “It was a natural progression. We’re in the service business. If it’s legal, our answer is yes, and then we figure out how to do it.”
In fact, for celebration events, Embark has long added fun elements like your own beach olympics as well as bringing in celebrity performers. For the summer camps, he is now engaging Broadway actors who will teach your kids how to exit stage left, Lego masters, top chefs to teach cooking, magicians, surfing instructors and karate sensei.
The sky’s the limit, and Ezon says spend can reach up to $150,000 per week. In addition to the rotating talent and experiences, you get a dedicated counselor. He says those clients having camp in their backyards have the option of hosting the counselor in their home or Embark will find them a COVID-19 compliant hotel nearby.
For those clients who want to have an away camp, but are concerned how to get there, Ezon struck a deal with Jet Linx Aviation, a private jet charter operator which has treated both its aircraft and dedicated private terminals with specialized anti-bacterial treatments. If you want even more separation, Embark has partnered with superyacht broker Northrop & Johnson so you can have a summer camp at sea.
Does Ezon think his on-demand summer camp business will continue beyond the current pandemic? “Yes,” he says, “I think it’s a new business, and it will grow. During the day the parents can do their own thing, or we can arrange anything they want, and then there are family dinners and movie nights, so it really combines the best of family vacations, the downtime parents need, and everything your kids love about summer camp.”