Posted on April 3, 2018 by staff

Secret Escapes boss: ‘Maintain your core personality’


Maintaining your core brand personality in the face of rapid expansion is key in order to be successful says Secret Escapes CEO Alex Saint.

Born out of the recession in 2011, Secret Escapes made luxury travel accessible to all by combining the best of flash sales with four and five-star hotels and holidays.

Now, with an 800-strong team and 42 million members, the company achieved revenue of £49m on gross bookings of £273m in 2016.

This has resulted in over £650m cumulative gross bookings since 2011 and a compound revenue growth of 185 per cent.

Keeping true to the company’s initial objectives while also moving with the times has been key to its success since its launch Saint told BusinessCloud.

“Whilst the company has expanded rapidly since launch, we have maintained our core personality and initial desire to provide an all-in platform that inspires people to escape,” he said.

“Our approach has always been to have a sensible business model that acknowledges the need to spend money to acquire customers.”

However it’s also vital to move with the times and use technology strategically he explains.

“One piece of advice is to never underestimate the importance of testing – we use meticulous data-driven strategies to determine everything we do, from marketing our product to CRM developments,” said Saint.

Flash sales in the marketplace was a relatively new concept when the site was created, so building a strong marketing proposal was also vital for the young team.

Thanks to the emphasis on this Secret Escapes has been disrupting the traditional ways in which people book their getaways – which has attracted loyal members across the globe.

“We run a disciplined marketing organisation which has helped us to meet our global growth targets since 2011,” said Saint.

“By offering a best-in-market price guarantee, as well as engaging content and highly tailored emails, we have managed to keep our business model unique enough to maintain its leading position in the travel sphere.”

The proposition behind the site is that hotels keep 30 to 40 per cent of their rooms unfilled, which lose all value if they don’t sell out on the night.

By selling these potentially missed opportunities at a discount of up to 60 per cent off Secret Escapes creates revenue for these businesses and provides an inspiring platform with a variety of products that has ensured growth in membership over the years, Saint says.

Back in October, the company closed a $111m (£83m) Series D investment and debt facility. This round, led by Singapore-headquartered Temasek, will be used for driving growth and acquisitions over the next few years.

“The next challenge is developing and investing in our less mature markets, developing our mobile functionality for our Asia territories and keeping an eye on new acquisition opportunities,” said Saint.