Ricardo Araujo, 45, founded his company Ariodante Travel more than seven years ago
A luxury travel agent, who plans trips for some of the world’s richest people, has revealed how he has spent more than $44 million on a single holiday – and sometimes the requests can be almost crazy.
Ricardo Araujo, 45 years old, started his company Trip to Ariodante more than seven years ago, and told DailyMail.com that his team now works for “a handful of extremely wealthy people, usually billionaires and sometimes royalty, who have a common interest in culture, beauty and having a positive impact on the world. ‘
“We could refer to them as thrillionaries, since their thirst for adventure is insatiable,” he joked.
Because Ricardo’s clients require confidentiality agreements, he says he can’t reveal the exact details behind each trip, but on one occasion, a sabbatical in Latin America “that lasted several months, cost well over $44 million and It took us almost a year of planning.” ‘
Asked about some of the more unusual requests he has received, the travel professional, who divides his time between London and Paris, recalls “a gentleman who wanted to detonate a nuclear bomb.”
Revealing how this unique request came about, he continued: ‘The man had heard about how he had taken someone to a nuclear submarine for a special lunch with the fleet commander. By the way, this is the kind of thing I can make happen.
‘Then this man came to me offering me millions to fulfill his dream of detonating a nuclear bomb. After the initial shock, I politely turned the man away.
Another extravagant request came in the form of having a mermaid appear for the nine-year-old granddaughter of a wealthy American client.
On this occasion, Riccardo was able to fulfill the client’s wish after researching the world of professional mermaids.
The ‘mermaid show’ arose during a luxury yacht trip he had organized in Europe and was inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey.
Riccardo managed to introduce a professional mermaid aboard the ship, so when the young woman took an underwater trip with her mother on the island of Capri in Italy, the artist dove deep and left her viewers “captive.”
The stunt, including the submarine rental, cost $350,000, and the entire trip cost the anonymous family $2.5 million.
Ricardo says he is inundated with requests from wealthy travelers around the world, but he is selective about who he accepts as clients, since one thing money can’t buy is manners.
She recalls one case where she ended up referring a “very complicated couple” to other agencies because the billionaire husband didn’t seem very courteous.
Most of Riccardo’s clients travel the world on private jets, either owned or chartered on a per-trip basis.
The travel professional prides itself on offering unique experiences, such as private museum tours.
He explained: ‘My complaint with the customer was his attitude. He showed his true colors while I was planning an experience to access a magnificent private castle in Italy.
‘He had arranged for the couple to enjoy lunch with the owner of the castle, who is actually a prince from one of the oldest families in Italy.
“But when my client saw the schedule, he asked to exchange lunch for sandwiches on the helicopter because he was not interested in paying for the prince’s lunch.
“That kind of billionaire is not for me, so I referred him to other agencies so he could have a normal trip.”
Riccardo says his clients generally trust him to come up with unique, out-of-this-world trips.
She says she often receives “cues” about certain desires, but “like a fashion designer creating a couture dress or an artist, my imagination takes over and I create something using that initial concept as a base.”
“My clients are more than happy to give us a creative blank check, because they know that our team has the experience, knowledge and imagination that they don’t possess,” Riccardo told DailyMail.com.
One of Riccardo’s proudest moments was gaining access to “one of the most famous museums in Europe” so his client could participate in the restoration of a mummy.
Recalling the special experience, he said: ‘My client was so overwhelmed his hands were shaking from excitement and disbelief that he was actually doing it.
‘What I am most proud of is transmitting these types of emotions and memories that will last a lifetime. I think that’s priceless.
“When I got the boy to see a mermaid outside the submarine, that was also very special.
“For years, people had told her that mermaids weren’t real, but then she saw one and managed to take a photo on her phone. She couldn’t sleep for almost two days because she was so happy and excited.”
Because Ricardo’s clients demand confidentiality agreements, he says he can’t reveal the exact details behind each trip.
Riccardo’s 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 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 was simply a group of tourists going to a classical music concert with a conductor to learn about music. I ended up hosting an amazing older couple from Boston who were passionate about opera, and we became friends.
“They were incredibly kind to me, so to thank them, I took them on a backstage tour of the opera, since all I had to do was call a friend and open the door.
‘They loved it so much that they started bragging about it in America and their friends started contacting me.
‘Before long I was impressing all the nouveau riche travelers with my imagination and attention to detail and the requests started coming in.
‘My ambition was to make each trip more incredible than the last. In an attempt to turn some of my crazy and impractical ideas into reality, I had to hire a team of experts and my company grew from there.
“I now consider myself a travel alchemist, able to turn dreams into reality, and I pride myself on carefully choosing my clients.”
Looking to 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 focus on experiences rather than looking for our regular flight and hotel packages”.
And he concludes: ‘Overtourism is becoming a real problem for many destinations and this also applies to the luxury market.
‘That’s why I think we need to move more towards meaningful travel.
‘The good news is that you don’t necessarily need a lot of money to have meaningful experiences. It just requires taking the time to investigate and look beyond the obvious.
“So instead of following Google’s recommendations or questioning ChatGPT, you need to explore further to find countless wonders that 90 percent of people “neglect” because they don’t even know they exist.”