Emma Barnett: Adventurous family escapes

April 1, 2020

Essential Escapes' unique portfolio is completely geared towards families with an appetite for adventure.

They’ve designed travel experiences to help families reconnect through the joy of adventure and sharing new and worldly adventures together.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am the founder and MD of Essential Escapes and its family brand Tots Too. I’m from Brighton originally, but have now been a London resident for more than half my life.

I juggle running a business with raising my four children and doing some cookery on the side.

I was a runner up in MasterChef UK the amateurs in 2015 and released my debut cookbook "Fress" in 2017, which became an Amazon bestseller.

Sugar Beach, St. Lucia

Tell us a bit about your company

Founded in 2002, Essential Escapes was the first luxury spa operator in the UK. Tots Too, a luxury family specialist, was founded in 2007 and quickly became an award-winning family travel brand.

Today, we have a team of 10 selling resorts and experiences for families worldwide. Essential Escapes has moved away from the spa niche and is more focused on selling family adventures for older kids.

Describe a typical working day for you

I always run before work, as I need to clear my head before a busy day.

I do everything from products to marketing, sales and managing staff. I also spend time analysing our website traffic and Google AdWords account.

No two days are ever the same and I love the variety that my job brings.

What new themes, trends or changes are you seeing in luxury travel?

People are more adventurous with travel than they have ever been and the age of the children travelling on more adventurous itineraries is getting younger.

There’s been increase in demand for South and Latin America. With the collapse of Thomas Cook, people are more conscious of the protection that a tour operator gives them, so we are seeing less competition in people booking direct.

Llao Llao Resort, Argentina

How have you adapted your offering to suit changing demands?

We have increased our product offerings in the places on the 2020 destinations hot list.

What does luxury mean to you these days? Has this changed?

Luxury has always been such a broad term that means something different to everyone.

It’s not about star ratings anymore, it’s all about reviews and experience.

How have your clients' needs changed in the last few years?

Clients are more savvy with the information they have access to. They come to us with a lot of knowledge already, but information overload means they also struggle to narrow down their options.

Travelling with kids means that certain requirements are always going to be there, so these haven't changed.

Adventure & Aurora family escape

How has technology changed your business?

The ability to capture client information and tailor specific marketing campaigns to them. Better phone software to enable remote working.

What has luxury travel taught you?

It means something different to everyone and you need to be one step ahead of the client at all times! It’s not enough to be different, you have to be better.


What excites you about the travel industry?

What is there not to love about travel?

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

I believe in Karma, what goes around comes around.

What do you value most when you travel?

Experiencing new food and new cultures.

Cooking in India Foodie Family

How do you make sustainable choices in your work/life?

I recycle, I eat less meat, I walk more, I've phased out single-use plastic.

What is the single most unique offering you provide to travellers?

Constant support. We are never offline, and we are small enough to be totally hands on.

book your place
Be at TFest
Join the global gathering of luxury travel professionals.