Ricardo Araujo, 45, started his company Ariodante Travel more than seven years ago
A luxury travel agent, who plans trips for some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, has revealed how he has spent upwards of $44 million on a single vacation and sometimes the requests can be borderline bonkers.
Ricardo Araujo, 45, started his company Ariodante Travel more than seven years ago, and he told DailyMail.com that his team now works for ‘a handful of extremely wealthy individuals, usually billionaires sometimes senior royals, who have a common interest in culture, beauty and having a positive impact on the world.’
‘You could refer to them as thrillionaires, as their thirst for adventure is insatiable,’ he quipped.
As Ricardo’s clients require nondisclosure agreements, he says he can’t reveal the exact details behind each trip but on one occasion, a sabbatical in Latin America ‘lasting for several months, cost way above $44 million and took us almost a year of planning.’
Quizzed on some of the more unusual requests he has received, the travel pro, who splits his time between London and Paris, remembers ‘one gentleman wanting to detonate a nuclear bomb.’
Revealing how the unique request came about, he continued: ‘The man had heard about how I had taken someone into a nuclear submarine for a special lunch with the commander of the fleet. These are the kind of things I can make happen, by the way.
‘So this man came to me offering millions for me to fulfil his dream of detonating a nuclear bomb. After the initial shock, I politely turned the man away.’
Another wacky request came in the form of arranging a mermaid to appear for a wealthy American client’s nine-year-old granddaughter.
On this occasion, Riccardo was able to fulfil the client’s wish after researching the world of professional mermaids.
The ‘mermaid show’ came about during a luxury yacht trip he had put together in Europe and inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey.
Riccardo managed to sneak a professional mermaid onboard the vessel so that when the youngster took a submarine trip with her mother off the island of Capri in Italy, the performer took a deep dive and left her spectators ‘wowed.’
The stunt, including the submarine hire, cost $350,000, with the overall trip setting the unnamed family back $2.5 million.
Ricardo says he is inundated with requests from deep-pocketed travelers around the world, but he is selective about who takes on as clients, as one thing money cannot buy is manners.
He recalls one instance where he ended up referring a ‘very complicated couple’ to other agencies, as the billionaire husband didn’t seem very courteous.
Most of Riccardo’s clients travel the world on private jets, either owning them or chartering them per trip
The travel pro prides himself on offering unique experiences, such as private museum tours
He explained: ‘My gripe with the client was his attitude. He showed his true colors while I was planning an experience to access a magnificent private castle in Italy.
‘I had arranged for the couple to enjoy a lunch with the castle owner, who is actually a prince from one of Italy’s oldest families.
‘But when my client saw the schedule, he asked to swap out the lunch for sandwiches in the helicopter instead because he wasn’t keen on paying for the prince’s lunch.
‘That kind of billionaire isn’t for me, so I referred him to other agencies so he could have a normal trip.’
Riccardo says generally his clients put their trust in him to dream up a unique and out-of-this world trips.
He says he often gets ‘indications’ regarding certain desires, but ‘like a fashion designer creating a haute couture gown or an artist, my imagination takes over and I create something using that initial concept as a foundation.’
‘My clients are more than happy to give us a creative blank check, because they know our team have the expertise, know-how, and imagination they don’t possess,’ Riccardo told DailyMail.com.
One of Riccardo’s proudest moments involved getting access to ‘one of the most famous museums in Europe’ so his client could take part in the restoration of a mummy.
Recalling the special experience, he said: ‘My client was so overwhelmed, his hands were shaking out of excitement and disbelief that he was actually doing it.
‘What I’m most proud of is delivering this kind of emotion and memories which will last a lifetime. There is no price for that I think.
‘When I arranged for the child to spot a mermaid out of the submarine, that was also very special.
‘She had had years of people telling her mermaids weren’t real, but then she spotted one, and managed to get a photo on her phone. She was unable to sleep for almost two days because she was so happy and excited.’
As Ricardo’s clients require nondisclosure agreements, he says he can’t reveal the exact details behind each trip
Riccardo favorite luxury hotels include Claridge’s in London and The Carlyle in New York
So, how does one become a luxury travel agent?
Well, for Riccardo, his entry into the world of yachts, helicopters, mermaids and more happened completely by accident.
He started out as a trained classical musician, composer and conductor, and one day, Airbnb contacted him and asked if he could create a classical music concert.
Recalling the chain of events, he said: ‘I received the request and decided to do it. It just involved a group of tourists going to a classical concert with a conductor to learn about music. I ended up hosting an amazing older couple from Boston, passionate about opera, and we became friends.
‘They were amazingly kind to me, so to thank them, I took them for a backstage tour of the opera house, as all it took for me was to call a friend and open the door.
‘They loved it so much they started bragging about it back in the U.S., and their friends started contacting me.
‘In no time, I impressed every new wealthy traveler with my imagination and attention to detail and the requests started flooding in.
‘My ambition was to make each trip more incredible than the one before. In a bid to turn some of my crazy, impractical ideas into realities, I had to recruit a team of experts and my company grew from there.
‘I now consider myself a travel alchemist, capable of turning dreams into reality, and I pride myself on carefully choosing my clients.’
Looking at the future of travel Riccardo – whose favorite luxury hotels now include Claridge’s in London and The Carlyle in New York – says people ‘will continue to shift their focus towards experiences rather than seeking our regular flight and hotel packages.’
He concludes: ‘Overtourism is becoming a real issue for many destinations and this also applies to the luxury market.
‘That’s why I believe we need to move more towards meaningful travel.
‘The good news is you don’t necessarily need a lot of money to have meaningful experiences. It just requires taking the time to research and look beyond the obvious.
‘So instead of following Google’s recommendations or quizzing ChatGPT, you need to explore beyond to find countless marvels 90 per cent of people “neglect” because they don’t even know they exist.’