Photo courtesy of New Orleans CVB, Jen Amato
As a travel destination, New Orleans unquestionably has much to recommend it, featuring some of the world’s most compelling choices in food, music and festivals. But for those travelers looking to further heighten Big Easy travel experiences, Clandestine New Orleans, a boutique event planning company, aims to do just that.
While the company’s tours and events run the gamut, its hallmark is its ability to provide travelers insider access to their particular set of interests. “We try to spend time really getting to understand who the clients are and what their interests are so we can gear their visits to what will be the most interesting for them,” said Kelley Troia, founder of Clandestine New Orleans, who runs the company with her partner, Kim Sayatovic.
For instance, for a family with two daughters, one of whom had a keen interest in voodoo and the other in cats, Troia and Sayatovic fashioned activities featuring elements on each subject to satisfy both girls. First, the girls spent some time in a facility that took in strays. “Next door they were able make masks as a family with a local artist,” said Troia. “They also went on a private voodoo tour by carriage.”
The company is also making a name for itself in designing programs for travelers celebrating milestone birthdays, arranging these events for groups as large as 100. “We’ll put together an entire itinerary of activities for them that typically include one big party event and augment it with things like private block tours, private seafood boils, or going VIP at a live music venue,” Troia said.
In many cases, the company builds upon more prosaic requests to create one-of-a-kind events. One client requested a balcony on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras to celebrate her husband’s 50th birthday in 2016.
Troia suggested building a program far beyond the client’s original request by arranging for the couple and their friends to actually ride on a Mardi Gras float. “We’ll also have a private grandstand for them so they’ll be able to watch the parades as they roll by – and we’re going to get them a balcony on Bourbon Street,” she said. “We’ll add to that with a number of private dining experiences and put together gift bags for them and anything else that they’re interested in.”
For another client, a woman from Buenos Aires with a keen interest in Southern Gothic literature and William Faulkner, Clandestine New Orleans arranged for a private meeting with the region’s preeminent expert in the field. “She actually went to his house and spent about two hours talking to him and really getting to learn what he knows about that form of literature,” said Troia, adding that she arranged for meals and a walking tour themed to the subject of Faulkner and Southern Gothic literature.
In addition to creating bespoke programs, Clandestine New Orleans also designs destination weddings and offers more an array of packages, whose themes include cuisine, music, arts and culture, history and architecture, sports and shopping.
Although Clandestine New Orleans has yet to work extensively with travel agents, Troia said the company is interested in connecting with those travel advisors with appropriate client bases. “We’re trying to find the right group that will make the most sense to connect us to the clientele that would be interested in our services,” she said.
Troia, a former marketing executive for Walmart, founded the company three years ago after creating an elaborate 40th birthday party for a friend. The party received rave reviews and requests for Troia’s services. “I had so many people telling me I should do this for a living that I decided that was what I was going to do.”