Manifest Escapes

Capitalizing on the small, private group travel trend that travelers crave

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Manifest Escapes is new on the travel scene, offering exclusive small group vacations to domestic travel destinations via private aircraft.

“We’re about experiential travel, close to home,” said Jeff Potter, founder and CEO of Manifest. “There’s so many places, so many experiences right in our own backyard that we haven’t tapped into. So I focused in on that, recognizing that smaller group travel experience, 3- or 4-day getaways with active adults from ages 35-70. We’re getting you outdoors—whitewater rafting, kayaking, golf, culinary trips.”

One unique element of Manifest’s strategy is the implementation of private aviation, a component that Potter has extensive experience with, having worked previously in private aviation and as the CEO of Frontier Airlines. “We recognized early on that private aviation needed to be a component. We want to get you there within a couple of hours and that just means more time experiencing the destination.”

While travel by private jet is often reserved for the “top 1%,” Manifest’s goal is to expand that private aviation model to the top 5-8% of consumers. “When you think about it, when you go on a 6- or 7-day trip, one day is travel there, one day is travel back. So a six-day trip becomes a four-day trip,” Potter said. “We’re offering four-day trips, but we’re getting you there and back in a couple of hours. We don’t have to go through commercial airports, we don’t have to connect.” Many of the destinations Manifest visits are off the beaten path, so this becomes more important.

Unlike many established companies, Manifest hasn’t had to do a pandemic pivot, but they are very cognizant of the safety and security of their members. They are focusing exclusively on U.S. destinations.

In addition to his experience at Frontier, Jeff Potter also worked at Exclusive Resorts, the members-only luxury vacation club owned by AOL founder Steve Case. It was there that Potter tapped into the membership model within a company that put a premium on privacy and luxury for affluent travelers. While at Exclusive, Potter learned that service, service, service and exceeding expectations of the 3,700 club members, which focused on the top half of the 1% in terms of household demographic income, produced repeatable results.

“I’m fond of subscription models, reoccurring revenue, it creates a stickiness of like-minded travelers,” said Potter.

Manifest’s challenge will be to create experiences that can’t be matched by consumers on their own. Their supposition is that the vast majority of consumers doesn’t like to plan every element of their trip and will appreciate that the company takes them from their home, to the airport, handles all food, drink and lodging, without the hassle.

The company is opening up chapters across the U.S. Membership rates are $2,500 per year and allow you to invite up to three members on trips.

“We’ve been testing the waters and we’re surprised that there is such a yearning and a niche that has not been filled,” concluded Potter. “The reception thus far has been fantastic.” The chapter nature of the business allows them to offer specific trips to members in a certain gateway city while capping membership.

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Listen to interviews with travel industry entrepreneurs in the Traveling Tribes podcast.