It has been nearly 10 years since husband and wife team Lia Batkin and Seth Kaplan founded In the Know Experiences, a luxury travel and lifestyle company that aims to provide clients with once-in-a-lifetime, humble-bragging, bucket list-checking experiences. After returning from a frustrating trip to Argentina where everything that could go wrong, did, Lia and Seth took it upon themselves to create a travel company for younger, savvier travelers who wanted curated vacations with personalized suggestions; not just a flight and hotel reservation. In the Know Experiences works with agents who are a part of other agencies, as well as independent contractors who operate under the umbrella their company, to make these experiences a reality. “We don’t want to make clients have to fit into this quintessential standard trip, so to say,” says Batkin. “A lot of what we do really encompasses an experiential angle. So we really try to understand what the client is trying to achieve, what their passion points are, dislikes, and then we curate things that they wouldn’t be able to find on their own.”
After many years of success creating unique travel experiences (think a mini-Coachella and a road rally in the South of France) and providing clients with access to some of the most exclusive events and happenings around the globe, In the Know Experiences caught the attention of Certares—the parent company to several luxury travel businesses including Tzell Travel, Protravel International and Travel Leaders Group—which made a significant investment in the company earlier this year. The ever-expanding In the Know Experiences is partnering with new agents on an ongoing basis; find out how you can “get in the know” as well in our chat with Lia and Seth.
Melissa Bryant (MB): Tell me more about that fateful trip to Argentina that spurred In The Know Experiences.
Seth Kaplan (SK): At the time, Lia and myself were dating and we basically took a trip down to South America and we used a local agent there. We went to Buenos Aires and Punta del Este and it was awful. We went to Punta del Este and we were there when everyone else was in Buenos Aires. They said we had to stay in this certain area and they put us in an apartment with Superman sheets and no air conditioning…. So then we get to Buenos Aires and everyone is in Punta del Este. We wanted certain things [that never came to fruition]. Lia wanted to go to the leather market to get a certain jacket and they were closed. It was just a disaster.
We thought, “How can nobody out there focus on that next generation traveler…people who don’t just want a generic trip, but want insider access?” From there we started to curate trips on the side. We did a trip for a client of ours down in Miami and it kind of took off from there.
Lia Batkin (LB): We felt like there was this really great niche for us to start a company where 1. We understood what people wanted because we were in the same age bracket, and 2. We were approaching it in a very consultative, very experiential angle, where a lot of other people and companies weren’t at that time.
MB: Who is your target audience?
LB: When we started we didn’t come from the travel business, so we were targeting our friends and people we knew, a younger demographic, but now [almost 10 years later] those people have grown up. So we still have those clients of people in their mid 30s to 50s. Definitely more of a savvy traveler. People who want a little bit more of a cool factor. I don’t think it’s necessarily the age range anymore, I think it’s the mindset of people who want to travel differently.
MB: What type of once-in-a-lifetime, humble-bragging, bucket list-checking experiences have you curated?
SB: We did a mini-Coachella where we brought in [our client’s] favorite acts and had stages and brought in different food trucks from all over and literally created this music festival in his backyard for two days. We also shut down [a street] in the South of France and brought in 20 different cars and did a road rally [for another client]. Things like that, out-of-the-box experiences. And then you know [things like] front row seats at a concert, or we’ve had clients warm up with the team in the locker rooms at a Giants game.
MB: Have you ever received a request that is too over the top/is there such a thing?
SB: If it’s legal we can do it!
MB: What is some of the feedback that you have received from your clients?
LB: They love it. We get some clients that we’ve done some pretty cool things for that we still work with today, and we’ll be planning a trip for them five years later and they’re like, “Do you remember that moment that you set up for us when the entire room was filled with my wife’s favorite flowers and pictures from our wedding.” They love to reminisce with us, and that’s how we’ve really built our business, by referrals. From the get-go that’s what we wanted to do. To be quality and not quantity…our return rate is like 98.5 percent.
MB: How do you work with travel agents?
SB: So on the events side [we have] travel agents help us with letting us know what’s going on, what are the cool new restaurants, what new experiences can clients do.
LB: [Our curated experiences] are also a nice add-on to guests’ trips. The way that high-end travel is going is really a strong focus on the experience. A lot of what we do and what we have access to is something that gives agents who work with us a leg up [because] their clients are seeing that it’s not just a flight and a hotel. They can come to their travel agent for something that’s really a wow-factor. Also, it’s a nice little add-on to make more money. I think that it’s been a great way to grow an agent’s business. We’ve definitely done a lot of training; teaching them how to sell [an experience]…and we just keep expanding that side of our business.
MB: How did In the Know Experiences’ partnership with Certares begin?
LB: We were very lucky to start some great conversations with Barry Liben who created Tzell Travel and because of Barry we were introduced to Certares. Our conversations were progressing, but we are not a typical acquisition for them. So we were then connected with Certares, and I think they kind of immediately got the fact that we were this young growing company that had a lot to offer their growing empire. Also, that we could not only really grow this younger generation of travel agents, but also with regards to events and experiences, give access and teach their agents under Travel Leaders how to sell this type of product.
MB: How can agents partner with In the Know Experiences?
LB: Usually they’re either referred or they call us up and we set up a meeting to see if they are a right fit for us.
For more information, call (866) 634-9658 or visit intheknowexperiences.com.