It’s all about connections. Whether you connect with a place, a person or just a moment, that connection can make all the difference. We recently chatted with Emmanuel Burgio, founder and CEO of Blue Parallel, a luxury touring company that focuses on unique, exclusive experiences Burgio creates through his wide range of connections.
When he founded Blue Parallel 11 years ago, Burgio had no experience in the travel industry. After spending years in investment banking, he took some time off to travel around the world and visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible. On his journeys, he meta range of people and realized that he was happier traveling than he was banking.
He founded his company (the name coming from his favorite color and the concept of parallel lines on a map...or parallel universes) on the premise of serving the kind of demanding clientele (for example, investment bankers) he had been. Knowing the lifestyle and expectations, he was able to put his range of connections to good use and deliver unexpected experiences. “We started with South America and then moved on to Central America,” he said. “We worked with National Geographic for three or four years on an aerial photography book, Through the Eyes of a Condor. That was a fascinating project: We had to design flight routes and get helicopters. We had to get permits and special rights to fly over sensitive zones, like in the Galapagos.” In arranging the flights for National Geographic’s photographers, Burgio grew his network further and was able to expand his footprint. “Our focus has been on high-end, private, custom-made adventure travel with discovery, exploration, and luxury insider access.”
The networks Burgio and his team has created over time includes the directors of national parks, artists, politicians and chefs—“Depending on the profile of the traveler and their interests, we can throw in unique ingredients in order to handle experiences that are once-in-a-lifetime,” he said. One client, a banker from New York, wanted to go kayaking in Patagonia. Beyond the initial itinerary, the Blue Parallel team arranged for the client to spend with athletes from Argentine Olympic team. Another time, clients vacationing in Vail asked Burgio to change their trip to include an excursion to Latin America, where they wanted to discuss investment opportunities. When they arrived in Argentina, they met the mayor of Buenos Aires, and in Peru, they met with the director of tourism in the presidential palace.
Blue Parallel will soon offer trips to the Mediterranean, the region Burgio calls home. “I have a lot of friends and family in the area,” he said, adding that he is personally eager to return and see some favorite places again. Building on his networks, the trips will focus on regions where Burgio and the team have already made connections, like Andalucia and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Attractions will include the Mezquita in Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada and the Hagia Sophia in Turkey. In Athens, the Acropolis is closed to the public on Mondays, so that’s when Blue Parallel clients will get to tour it. Other activities will include meeting local farmers and producers, like one Greek household that has produced local honey for generations.
“A friend of my father’s is a good friend of the director of the Alhambra,” Burgio said. “We met with her and told her what we do. We asked, ‘how can we do something special?’” The director noted that the Alhambra is open for a day session and a night session--but for two hours in between, the historic site is empty. If Blue Parallel would cover the cost of security and electricity, their guests could go on their private tours with no one else around. Even better, another friend of the director’s who lives nearby manages an arts foundation and is descended from a notable art collector. (Think legendary Spanish artists like Velazquez and El Greco.) While the Blue Parallel clients wait to go in to the Alhambra, they can visit this private home and learn about these priceless works of art from a local scholar.
“These trips will be very high-end for individuals who want to experience the very best and not be with the crowds,” he said. “It’s sadm in a way—most Americans see the Mediterranean on a cruise, which is not ideal way to see all those incredible sights. Our clients are the opposite of those passengers: They don’t want to be surrounded by lots of people, they don’t want to wait in lines, and privacy is important.”