HomeInterviews"Barcelona was a natural choice. It is both one of the leading...

“Barcelona was a natural choice. It is both one of the leading tourist destinations and one of Europe’s up-and-coming entrepreneurial hot spots”: Interview with Luxustravel’s founders

Today, we had the chance to interview the founding team behind Luxustravel.es: Agustí Sala Llauradó and David Rodríguez Borràs, as well as their marketing manager Miquel Ros.

The Barcelona-based startup, which was launched just recently, covers an area of the travel market that has previously been quite neglected by existing players: the highest-end of luxury travel, where much of the activity takes place offline.

The founding team behind Luxustravel.es aims to change this, armed with an initial investment of €250K that they recently received from private investors.

When did you have the idea for Luxustravel.es, and what made you sure it was the right one?

The idea was born during a charity dinner. Agustí Sala, one of the founders, was the organizer and was looking for sponsorships to conduct a raffle. During this process he met Josep Piqué, another of the co-founders. Josep was running an online forum about cruises in Spanish. Agustí, who was working at that time as a social media consultant, saw the opportunity to create a vertical social network for cruise travellers. Shortly after, David Rodríguez joined the project. David has broad experience in the travel industry and, a few years back, had also worked at one of Spain’s first e-commerce sites.

Once the team was in place, we reached out to Atlàntida Viatges, one of the key players in the Spanish luxury travel market. It was then that we broadened the scope of the project, to encompass other travel products and services beyond the cruise industry, although still focusing on the luxury segment. Extensive market research showed us that this was the travel industry segment where we could make a more significant impact.

What makes Luxustravel.es unique or better than other high-end luxury travel websites out there?

First of all, our philosophy is to create a community of users looking for luxury travel experiences.

Our aim is not only to suggest and sell high-end travel packages, but also to provide high-quality travel and lifestyle content. We want to let our users share their travel memories, seek advice from other users, or let others know about their travel plans. This combination of commercial and social elements is one of the main differences with most of the players in this segment, that generally pay attention to only either one of these two aspects (pure product sales or social sharing).

Regarding e-commerce, there are plenty of travel sites aimed at the upper segments of the market, but they generally have not been as successful as those aimed the mass market. This is mainly because of two things: either they depend on traditional travel agents, that have not fully adapted their customer experience to online channels, or they’ve been developed by people with the tech skills to create great sites, but with little real knowledge of the travel industry. It’s likely that these are the reasons why, unlike in the mass-market segment, there are few successful examples of successful online travel agents at the top segment. The agents themselves are losing business opportunities because the top segment of the market could be larger than it is nowadays.

We believe that we have the right formula to overcome the aforementioned issues. We have created everything from scratch, without inheriting bad or old industry practices. Offering a €20K vacation package through the internet implies using a different marketing and sales approach than if you do it through the average travel agent. At the same time, our strategic agreement with Atlàntida Viatges provides us with a pipeline of trusted high-quality travel experiences for distribution. At least 70% of our portfolio products have been reviewed onsite by Atlàntida’s agents in the last three years.

The online travel marketplace is highly competitive. What kind of marketing strategies do you use to generate sales and promote Luxustravel.es as a brand?

We have two challenges. The first is to generate a critical mass of high-quality user content in our community so that users remain engaged.

The second is to reach potential customers for our portfolio of travel experiences (it is not necessary to use the site’s social features of our site in order to purchase a travel package). We do not expect all of our customers to be interested in sharing their holiday pictures or their travel plans. Last, but not least, retaining users in this segment is as important (if not more important) than attracting them.

Our marketing strategy combines online marketing tools, content management and offline events. Online marketing campaigns allow us to attract new customers and get market intelligence. Content management plays a dual role: it drives new users and it allows us to retain the existing ones. Finally, offline events are an opportunity to engage and retain users and clients while adding an extra layer of trust.

Luxutravel.es had an initial investment of €250K from private investors and just launched a few weeks ago. What is your impression of Luxustravel’s market acceptance so far?

We adopted a soft take-off approach, using the Spanish as a ‘test bank’ for our concept. While current macroeconomic conditions in Spain may not be optimal for the launch of a project with these characteristics, we believe that there is room for such a project. Spanish people continue to go on holiday and, actually, there is an increasing demand for premium and luxury vacations, as the segment of Spanish consumers that we are targeting is becoming more sophisticated with travel choices.

We are very happy with reception so far, both in terms of enquiries and sales; we sold our first packages shortly after going live and with very little marketing investment on our side! Given the first market feedback, we may even have to revise upwards our original forecasts.

Right now, Luxustravel.es is only targeting the Spanish market. Are there any plans to launch in additional markets soon, and if so, which are these likely going to be?

Our aim is to become in the long run a global travel and leisure network. Luxustravel.es is only the very first stage of this project. The second stage will be to have presence in other European markets, and for this we will soon have an English version of the site. From then on, our goal is to keep adding markets, while taking into account the importance of cultural differences when it comes to marketing.

What are your milestones for the end of the year and where would you like to see Luxustravel.es in about three years from now?

We have three short-term milestones. In the following weeks we will launch an enhanced booking experience, so that consumers can book luxury travel packages in very few steps. This is important because most of our products are customised. The second is to activate the platform’s social features, which at first will be by invitation only. Lastly, we plan to launch the English language version of the site, in order to enter other European markets.

In the long run, we wish to become a reference point, a hub, for all those seeking luxury travel and leisure experiences.

What’s been your experience of Barcelona as a location to start a company?

Besides our family and personal ties to the city, Barcelona was a natural choice. It is both one of the leading tourist destinations and one of Europe’s up-and-coming entrepreneurial hot spots. The weather, the food, and the open-mindedness of the population explains part of the success, but there are also other elements to take into account: labour costs are very competitive and there is a readily available pool of talent in knowledge-related industries.

The main problem we have encountered is the fact that most of the working population has a poor command of the English language. This situation has two negative impacts: the first one is that companies have problems filling certain positions that require fluency in English, something that is shocking if you consider that unemployment is the country’s number one problem. The second one is more subtle: there are very few bridges between the local community of entrepreneurs and those entrepreneurial projects located in Barcelona but set up by foreigners. It’s a pity, because many business opportunities may be lost because of this poor communication among entrepreneurs. Hopefully certain recent initiatives, such as Barcelona Loves Entrepeneurs, will help overcome this problem.

Could you recommend our readers one or two books that helped you during your entrepreneurial endeavours?

Agustí would like to recommend the biography of Steve Jobs. It is the best example of the fact that, quite often, you don’t need to invent something totally new in order to succeed; sometimes you just need to make things better or simply connect the dots.

David recommends Jared Diamond’s Collapse. It’s a book that describes how societies can succeed or fail depending on the choices they make, contingent on their environmental factors. This is a great analogy with the fate of companies. And besides the business component, it is also an excellent book to review your geography and history skills, something useful when you work in the travel industry!

By the way: If you’d like to stay up-to-date regarding startup news and interesting opportunities, make sure to subscribe to our free weekly EU-Startups Newsletter.

Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr is the "Editor in Chief" of EU-Startups.com and started the blog in October 2010. He is excited about Europe's future, passionate about new business ideas and lives in Barcelona (Spain).

Most Popular