Australian boutique travel brand, Luxury Escapes, has suddenly become very visible across Asia. In fact, it’s hard to escape its emails or its social ads if you’re living in Asia and that’s because the company is ramping up its business in the region.
It appointed a head for Asia, Graham Hills, earlier this year and it now has close to 20 staff members in partnerships, marketing and customer service in Singapore and India.
A key breakthrough is the acquisition of its trademark in India where it used to operate under Escape Club. By the end of this month, it will operate under Luxury Escapes, giving the brand a foothold in a key Asian market, said Hills.
Luxury Escapes has an interesting history. It started out of
daily deals business six years ago by Australia’s Lux Group, a privately-owned business based in Melbourne founded in 2009 by
Jeremy Same and Adam Schwab. (Lux Group has more than 150 team members
globally, with major offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Bangalore, Singapore and San
Francisco. In addition to Luxury Escapes, the Lux Group is a joint venture
partner with the Catch Group in Scoopon, Cudo and TreatMe.)
Its Luxury Escapes brand has grown by leaps and bounds, with Australia generating more than 500,000 room nights to date for its partners around the world, according to CEO Cameron Holland (in this video).
Holland, who worked with Lonely Planet and later Jetstar Australia, took a break from travel when he worked with health, wealth and living group Australian Unity, and returned to the industry in October 2018 with Luxury Escapes, becoming CEO in March this year.
At the time, Holland said it was an easy decision. In a
media interview, he said, “Luxury Escapes is a business showing no signs of slowing
down, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of working in a rapidly changing
His mission is to take the Melbourne-based group from start-up to scale-up, as well as expansion across other travel verticals. Currently, Luxury Escapes has more than three million members across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, the US and the UK. Naturally, Australia accounts for the bulk of subscribers, up to 70%, said Hills, and clearly the intent is to grow the customer base in Asia.
The brand is best known for its hotel and resort packages “which sell the full experience”, said Hills, including transfers, breakfast, cocktails, massage, meals, among other features. Typically, each hotel deal (minimum two nights) runs over two to three weeks and Luxury Escapes designs a marketing campaign around the deal, using both offline and online channels.
Luxury Escapes has expanded offerings to include flights (powered by Amadeus), homes and villas, tours and cruises, and the latest, Experiences (powered by Rezdy). Only flights have yet to launch internationally.
As with its hotel and resort packages, Experiences are carefully curated, said Hills, who knows the sector well due to his past experience with B2B tours & activities platform, BeMyGuest.
“We aim to keep our Experiences offerings tailored to each destination and in-line with what we know about our customers. As such, we will never have multiples of the exact same experience product shown to our customers for them to sift through and decide the way many other platforms do.”
With the launch of this Experiences product (see video below), customers will have the option of returning to the site to book their tour and activity, after they have made the hotel booking “instead of having to book it at the same time as the hotel”.
There are clear differences between the Australian and Asian markets, of course, said Hills. Marketing campaigns in Asia tend to be more of a digital play, with print used selectively depending on the markets. Bookings are largely made on mobile vs desktop in Australia.
The bulk of bookings happen within the first few days of a
campaign, with a pick-up towards the end. The best-selling resort group-wide is
Finolhu Maldives and more than half of customers buy upgrades on check-in.
The Asia demographic is also younger – 30-40-year-olds. Deals targeted at markets in Asia therefore tend to be more family-led with shorter stays. And there is a stronger preference for branded hotels “perhaps because Luxury Escapes is still new in Asia and people want the comfort”, said Hills.
The top 10 destinations in Asia are Maldives, Thailand, Bali, India, Japan, Dubai, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia, while the top 10 in Australia are domestic, Indonesia (lead by Bali and Lombok), Thailand, Maldives, Singapore, Vietnam, Fiji, Japan, Dubai and the US.
“What we do is offer members the complete holiday experience – from flights (just added in Australia) to in-property and in-destination,” said Hills. “We will be rolling out the other verticals market by market.
“We are like the modern-day tour operator and digital is our
biggest asset,” added Hills.
Asked how an Australian travel brand can have success in
Asia – the Australian leisure market is very different and homogenous while
Asia is highly fragmented with different markets having different behaviours,
Hills said that one challenge is the pace. “Things move very fast in Asia and
pace is something foreign brands have to work on. Another thing is mobile – you
have to think mobile first in Asia while Australia is still largely desktop.”
In terms of localisation of languages, Hills said that was being worked on. Right now, all Luxury Escapes’ offers are in English.
• All images (featured image – Finolhu Maldives) and video credit: Luxury Escapes