FCTG mulls global potential of Luxperience

LATTE chats exclusively with James Kavanagh, Global CEO of Leisure, FCTG

Luxperience will bolster its footprint in the Australian luxury event space in 2024, with further short-term scope to expand the show internationally. Next year’s Luxperience will return to Sydney on 19 November, and its portable format will enable it to launch in markets such as the UK and USA, LATTE can reveal.

Backed by Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG), the multi-day event was revived this week to its pre-pandemic in-person appointment schedule at the International Convention Centre Sydney.

Speaking exclusively with LATTE from the sidelines of Luxperience, James Kavanagh, Global CEO of Leisure for FCTG said he was delighted to see the event “get off the ground” this week. FCTG acquired Luxperience from Diversified in May, and within six months has been able to piece together a successful show, with 200+ buyers and sellers.

“Luxperience is a perfect complement to the portfolio of brands within the division. Our intention was to run it as a boutique event from the start,” Kavanagh said. “We wanted to be able to do the brand justice.”

Luxperience 2023's welcoming committee | Credit: Luxperience

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This year FCTG acquired the UK’s ultra-luxury travel player, Scott Dunn and recently recruited Nikki Glading to head the Member Portfolio – both businesses that sit within the Luxury Travel Collection, alongside Travel Associates.

“The acquisition of Scott Dunn earlier in the year shows we are serious about making a move into the luxury segment of travel,” he said.

Kavanagh said that the more FCTG dives into the luxury market there is increased importance of “getting things done right”. That meant a relatively low-key Luxperience in 2023 rather than creating a “big bang expo of sorts”.

“This is our first time running it. We wanted to make sure to do a boutique event this year and then scale it up next year, so we get the recipe right and then it gives us a platform to grow,” he said.

Luxperience 2023 had a stringent vetting process, which saw some travel advisor applicants knocked back. That included 10 years’ minimum experience and limited to first-time attendees.

“The event is very exclusive. For people to make the effort to travel here and exhibit from overseas, or buyers to participate from abroad and to meet with Australian suppliers in the two-way partnership, the return on investment is really important so there is a very extended vetting process,” Kavanagh said.

Luxperience's Lynn Ormiston, Event Director and Lauren Dunemann, Guest Experience Manager.

Appointments had been carefully curated to ensure they were a “win-win for both sides”.

He said if the event wants to lure international advisors and buyers to Luxperience as well, the approach will be to connect them with unique local players. “It’s not just about outbound.”

Captured at Shell House Dining Room by LATTE are James Kavanagh, Global CEO of Leisure, FCTG with Anna Burgdorf (left), Global Brand & Marketing Director, Luxury/Leisure, FCTG; Lynn Ormiston, Brand Director, Luxperience and Rachel Kingswell, General Manager, AU/NZ, Travel Associates.

Beyond Sydney, and Australia

Questioned if Luxperience was anchored in Sydney or if it could be moved interstate from 2025 or beyond, Kavanagh said the show was a “very portable recipe”.

“The scope is very easy for us to move. It’s just a matter of making sure wherever we go it will be a good return on investment from both sides.”

And what about beyond Australia and exported internationally?

“The aspiration for me is to take Luxperience global,” Kavanagh revealed to LATTE.

“The geographies that we’re in now, and with the portfolio of brands that we have in this Luxury Collection, there’s no reason where we have a brand in operation, we should easily be able to have Luxperience be a supporting act.”

Peru Ambassador Vitaliano Gallardo, along with Mario Vargas Trade Commissioner of Peru to Australia/ New Zealand. Pictured with Lynn Ormiston, Luxperience Event Director and Magali Rodriguez, Peru Tourism Specialist | Credit: Wes Nel Productions

Taking Luxperience globally would see the event competing with the likes of ILTM and other luxury-targeted trade shows, but Kavanagh believes there is “always going to be space for more [competition]”.

“What’s important, particularly here at Luxperience, is that you bring something different. That’s what I’m hearing from a lot of people who are here today, is that the exhibitors are slightly different to those that are at the major shows such as ILTM or WTM.”

“For us, it’s about making sure that we have a space in this event side of luxury travel and that provides good value equally on both sides of the equation.”

Kavanagh said events like Luxperience provide a blend of not only meetings and opportunities to plan, but “buyers and sellers coming together to shape what the future of luxury of travel could be.”

Captured by LATTE having a great time at the Welcome Cocktail Reception at Kimpton Margot Sydney from left are David Brandon, Savenio; Simon Lynch, Scott Dunn; Lynn Ormiston, Luxperience and Rachel Kingswell, Travel Associates.

Further expansion in luxury

“We’re a growth company and so our aspiration is to accelerate in this segment,” he said when asked about other potential areas of expansion in the luxury travel market.

“If you look at all the brands in the luxury division, at the moment we’re in Australia, New Zealand in the Southern hemisphere, and the UK, US and Singapore. The opportunity to grow out of the US is significant for us.

“We’ve just opened Scott Dunn on the east coast and we’re looking at ways to grow organically through our existing brands.”

Beyond the existing brands, Kavanagh said “We’re also looking at a number of luxury partnerships that we’re forming through luxury brands to be able to extend our reach into their customer base.”

Kavanagh hinted that such partnership/s could be just around the corner.

“But as well, we’re also open to M&A [mergers and acquisitions] within this space.” Those potential mergers and/or acquisitions could be domestic or abroad, Kavanagh told LATTE.

“A lot of partnerships with specific companies have access to high nett worth individuals, then we tap into their member base, design a bespoke proposition and then be able to service them in a way that they know they can trust.”

He concluded, saying “By 2024 we’ll be in a position to be a leading authority on the voice of luxury travel given our diversity across different geographies. Having a conference then gives you a platform to provide good information, good education and good inspiration about future opportunities.”

Next year’s Luxperience will be held at the ICC Sydney from 19-22 November 2024.

Lead image: Captured by LATTE at Luxperience 2023 – James Kavanagh, Global CEO of Leisure, FCTG with Luxperience’s Lynn Ormiston and Lauren Dunemann.

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