Luxury travel designer community, Traveller Made, may be just five years old, but in that time the network has carved out the reputation as being the highest suite booking group in the world. The brainchild of Frenchman Quentin Desurmont, Traveller Made is a network that’s on the charge. With more than 360 members spanning a third of the world’s countries, the company has eyes for continued growth in the United States, Latin America and Australia, where it currently has only a handful of agencies.
Speaking exclusively with LATTE from his office in Paris last week, Desurmont said he established Traveller Made as a “seal of quality” for suppliers, and consumers. His goal was to create a label for his own Parisian retail travel agency, Peplum, that would earn it greater visibility among high-net-worth clients, without costing him a fortune.
“I decided that I needed to create a label that would help the best travel designers to be able to tell their wealthy clients that they were a part of the best organisation in the world.”
Increased awareness was one of three of Desurmont’s “obsessions”, as was best practice sharing and having better relationships with suppliers.
“The Traveller Made community are well respected, and even more than that, they are treated well because we provide the highest ADR [average daily rate]. Our business reviews with all our suppliers indicate that we are the highest suite bookers [Junior Suite, Penthouse Suite, etc] among all the networks in the world. And now they respect that, and they welcome all the Traveller Made agents because they know they are going to have big bookings with us,” Desurmont said.
His third obsession is market intelligence and capturing greater value.
“We don’t make enough money. All of us: hotels, DMCs, travel agencies. When you specialise in luxury, number one, you must be able to make more money so you can reinvest a lot in people – in smarter people, in communication, in branding. And number two is talent. Our industries are growing fast; there is not enough talent and there are not enough solutions to find the right talent.”
Haute couture of travel
Alongside Traveller Made, Desurmont created a think-tank called “Luxury Travel Lab”, which was comprised of people outside of the travel industry, specifically from the luxury goods industry – people from brands that are generating between 30-50% net profit, he said.
“That’s what luxury is all about. I’m talking about big brands. Huge brands. We are talking about this kind of profitability from businesses that are generating several billions of Euros.”
Their feedback suggested he needed to create “something that will be like the haute couture of travel”.
“The creation of value, and the capture of value goes from luxury, to rarity, to unicity. Haute couture – haute as in fine watch making, old jewellery. It’s all about rarity and unicity.”
In the industry today, many people just assemble. A hotel, a chain, a plane, a transfer. When you look at many fashion brands, they do assemble as well. They take a piece of fabric, a piece of lace, a piece of this and a piece of that and they make a dress. On paper, if you come from a cost model, then you are not going to make a lot of money and you’ll sell your dresses very cheap, and very affordable. But when you start to look at the branding, at the luxury branding, and you start to look at the strength of that brand, the strength of the designers and how they are creative, they don’t sell a dress anymore. They sell a dream.
Traveller Made President and CEO, Quentin Desurmont
One key fundamental area for Traveller Made is its process of filtering “true luxury” products and services.
“Every decision that we make at Traveller Made, we ask ourselves, is it luxury or not. We don’t work with cruise lines. We have decided that they are not luxury enough.”
Instead, Traveller Made works with brokers to arrange private yachts and power boats.
“For the rivers we have beautiful boats like Belmond and Aqua. We don’t work with the big cruises. It’s not luxury enough for us. They are great companies, but they are not are not sufficiently needed by our luxury travel designers. It’s important for us to stick to the luxury branding that we put in Traveller Made.”
The network has some 800 hotels, lodges, camps, trains and boats across the globe, including a collection of properties in Australia and New Zealand. Sixty-five per cent of properties are independent, non-branded dwellings, some of which have just three bedrooms.
“We have 50% of the big accommodation players but we also have a lot of small gems, and that is what the agencies love about Traveller Made. We bring beautiful gems to them that they couldn’t find on their own.”
Community growth aspiration
According to Desurmont, Traveller Made is the most internationally spread luxe network. The bulk (45%) of Traveller Made’s 365 agencies and 3,000 travel designers are in Europe. It has 100 across the Americas, 50 agencies in Asia and nearly 30 in Russia.
In Australia, the Traveller Made community is slim. Here it comprises 33 Degrees, Denny’s Travel, Luxury Life Travel, Oasis Travel, Seven Skies, The Classic Safari Company and The Honeymoon Boutique. In New Zealand it has a single member, Auckland-based Indigo.
“We are not very strong in Australia,” Desurmont admits, but he hinted to LATTE that Traveller Made’s brand awareness is set for a turbo-boost in the near future.
“I believe there is room for us to achieve 500 agencies, especially when we see the growth that we’ve been able to achieve in the US in such little time. Traveller Made can reach a size in the US that is similar to Europe, and we will fine tune our network in South America and Asia.”
“We are only young; we are only five years old. We grew very fast and we couldn’t focus on every corner of the world. So now we have a very big focus on the US, but we are always looking for help in Australia. There are beautiful luxury travel designers in Australia that we’d be keen to work with,” he said.
Desurmont is no stranger to Australia. Through a partnership with Luxperience he has held several meetings with agencies locally in recent years. Entry to the Traveller Made community is thorough. Want-to-be agencies need to be recommended by multiple DMCs that work with Traveller Made in order to receive an invitation to join. They are then required to complete an eight-page document to describe their business and their vision for the future of luxury travel.
The appeal of joining Traveller Made?
Quizzed by LATTE as to what the appeal of joining Traveller Made would be for an agency, Desurmont explained: “First of all it’s a seal of quality. To be a part of the best. Our reputation is established now. We deliver the highest suite bookings. And all the hotels now want to work with us because we are the ‘suite bookers’, and that is a fact.
“We have this reputation and its backed by figures, so it’s a real thing. We bring them the recognition. And when they call a hotel now they are immediately treated as VIP travel designers.”
Traveller Made agents are small like-minded travel designers. They generate between 2 million Euro and 35 million Euro annually. Last year agency sales grew by 18.1%.
“I like to think that Traveller Made played a role in helping them grow their business,” Desurmont concluded.
Find out more about Traveller Made at www.travellermade.com.