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Old 24.03.2011, 11:39
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Luxury holidays

I have just moved to Switzerland but am still heading up a luxury travel company called Exosphere based in London. For the immediate future the business will continue in the same way as it had before i relocated, however we are researching whether it would be viable to set up a branch office in Switzerland and promote the service to the expat community. What i'd love are your thoughts on the following:
How do expats book holidays here? I.E - Do you DIY it? Do you use a company in you home country? Do you use a Swiss travel agent? What sort of holidays do you take and to where?
Any comments would be very useful in giving me an idea of how the travel industry differs to the UK market here. Thanks so much Sophie
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Old 24.03.2011, 11:44
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Re: Luxury holidays

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I have just moved to Switzerland but am still heading up a luxury travel company called Exosphere based in London. For the immediate future the business will continue in the same way as it had before i relocated, however we are researching whether it would be viable to set up a branch office in Switzerland and promote the service to the expat community. What i'd love are your thoughts on the following:
How do expats book holidays here? I.E - Do you DIY it? Do you use a company in you home country? Do you use a Swiss travel agent? What sort of holidays do you take and to where?
Any comments would be very useful in giving me an idea of how the travel industry differs to the UK market here. Thanks so much Sophie
Living in Switzerland IS a luxury holiday
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Old 24.03.2011, 11:54
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Re: Luxury holidays

LOL! Very helpful!
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Old 24.03.2011, 11:55
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Re: Luxury holidays

Holiday?

Wait - I think I vaguely remember what that word means...

Our expat experience: We do not take holidays; any free time is spent back in the States fulfilling family responsibilities.

But if I am ever able to take a proper holiday again, I'll book directly. IME, travel companies do not allow for the spontaneity that I find to be a key ingredient in an enjoyable holiday. But that's just me.

Good luck with your venture.
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Old 24.03.2011, 12:08
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Re: Luxury holidays

As this appears to be a prrimarily online business, it probably doesn't matter where it is located. I am sure this isn't the type of business that requires a shop front.

The most important point is how it is marketed and promoted. i.e. how you get your customers.

If you are going to promote this in Switzerland, it would be an advantage to have a multi-language site.
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Old 24.03.2011, 12:17
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Re: Luxury holidays

We generally organise and book our own hols (helps having family in the Caribbean ). I've only ever used a travel agent once (Kuoni, Bern office) for a package deal to Crete. Flight times were a nightmare and the hotel was so-so. Probably our own fault for trying to holiday with 2 under-3s in tow .
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Old 24.03.2011, 12:18
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Re: Luxury holidays

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I have just moved to Switzerland but am still heading up a luxury travel company called Exosphere based in London. For the immediate future the business will continue in the same way as it had before i relocated, however we are researching whether it would be viable to set up a branch office in Switzerland and promote the service to the expat community. What i'd love are your thoughts on the following:
How do expats book holidays here? I.E - Do you DIY it? Do you use a company in you home country? Do you use a Swiss travel agent? What sort of holidays do you take and to where?
Any comments would be very useful in giving me an idea of how the travel industry differs to the UK market here. Thanks so much Sophie
Generally the Swiss do not have the 'have-a-go' attitude that prevails in the U.K. or the U.S.

You need an expert for everything from fixing a tap to pruning your plants. It may possibly be the same for holidays judging by the number of bricks and mortar travel agents and brochures that get put through the door.

Personally, I think planning a holiday is part of the fun of it and is so easy nowadays with everything online. It can be time consuming, especially for a holiday with a complex itinerary but it is ultimately rewarding.

Why should anyone else have my fun and ask me to pay them for it?
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Old 24.03.2011, 12:23
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Re: Luxury holidays

if you are targetting the ex pat community, then you need to contact the consulates. for example in geneva we have a very active consulate that organises business evenings where you can introduce your business and meet other people etc.that is the british consulate . try www.britsinbusiness.ch. don`t know about the other misfits, they love bashing brits but i bet theyre not so well organised!
that would be me having a last laugh by the way
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Old 24.03.2011, 12:26
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Re: Luxury holidays

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Generally the Swiss do not have the 'have-a-go' attitude that prevails in the U.K. or the U.S.
They do tend to have a better 'get-off-your-fat-ass-and-go-for-a-walk' attitude though.
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Old 24.03.2011, 12:35
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Re: Luxury holidays

If I book a holiday, I do the planning and organisation myself. The bookings will often be through UK sites, since they're sometimes cheaper for the same holiday, and they speak English.

We did do a package holiday once through a German site, and it was fine. The only downside was the resort was geared towards Germans (which was fine), and so the excursions offered were all via German speaking guides - which wasn't so good. We did find out, too late, how we could have done the same excursions with English speaking guides.
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Old 24.03.2011, 14:13
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Re: Luxury holidays

It might be a reasonable business model for older Swiss citizens but I don't think you'll get anywhere with us grouchy old expats - we can all use google which I'm guessing is your primary tool .
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Old 24.03.2011, 15:38
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Re: Luxury holidays

I personally also am more of the adventure-kinda type, but the luxury holiday business is certainly interresting, and if the marketing is done well, it will be used.
If one doesn't have time to organize anything, the luxury starts with having someone taking care for it and you know its just going to be awesome.
I had a look at the webpage, its beautiful, but I dont see any prices (they must be exospheric ), nor how to book. (I must say I am kinda tempted by that hacienda )
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Old 24.03.2011, 16:48
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Re: Luxury holidays

Ok, I think the topic is too complex to get an easy answer. Yes, we spend a significant amount of our hard earned on travelling, so we would be probably in your target group. But there is not a single way we book a vacation, it depends:

- Skiing vacation or city trips within the EU: DIY. Plenty of cheap airline offers available and a hotel seperately (often on booking.com). Being in Switzerland, we spend our skiing vacation here... using a UK agent to book a local hotel sounds absurd.
- Beach vacation (well, we both dive, so "diving vacation" is maybe more accurate): We up to now booked most of the times through holidaycheck.de (or .com, .fr, .it...), which I believe is actually registered in Switzerland while mainly serving EU customers for tax reasons. It is basically a "German version of trip advisor" plus a search engine for deals with basically all German tour operators. I always compared the prices a lot, but their search engine turned in my cases out to be damn close to unbeatable. So if a standardized packaged is what you are after - for us this was typically the case for the Maldives - why go through more expensive agents? I do not need their advice as the first hand experiences written by actual torusits have beaten the glossy catalogue texts every single time...
- Adventure trips. (In our case: Dive safaris) I book through specialist agents, they typically run this as a side business to a dive school or similar. These people know the sport better than I do and I rely on their expertise. I'd do the same for other sports.

So to conclude: I do not really see a need for a special agent "for expats" - I do not see any added value you could bring me for me not being Swiss. I hardly like to pay agents, but do so when they add value by being very kowledgabel about something specific - like the dive tour agents I mentioned. So as long as you do not offer something special: Why you?
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Old 25.03.2011, 10:56
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Re: Luxury holidays

I hope you do get a proper holiday again at some point - they are good for you!

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Holiday?

Wait - I think I vaguely remember what that word means...

Our expat experience: We do not take holidays; any free time is spent back in the States fulfilling family responsibilities.

But if I am ever able to take a proper holiday again, I'll book directly. IME, travel companies do not allow for the spontaneity that I find to be a key ingredient in an enjoyable holiday. But that's just me.

Good luck with your venture.
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Old 25.03.2011, 11:01
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Re: Luxury holidays

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As this appears to be a prrimarily online business, it probably doesn't matter where it is located. I am sure this isn't the type of business that requires a shop front.

The most important point is how it is marketed and promoted. i.e. how you get your customers.

If you are going to promote this in Switzerland, it would be an advantage to have a multi-language site.
You're right, we don't need a shop front as we communicate via telephone and emails with all of our clients. For the London based business we have a nice office for clients that do want to drop in but I usually visit clients, who want to discuss their holiday plans, where it is convenient for them.

As Exosphere is no ordinary travel company marketing is key for us regardless of location.

Thanks so much for your insights.
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Old 25.03.2011, 11:10
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Re: Luxury holidays

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It might be a reasonable business model for older Swiss citizens but I don't think you'll get anywhere with us grouchy old expats - we can all use google which I'm guessing is your primary tool .
Everyone can use google you're right but good travel experts shouldn't be using that as their primary tool. We visit destinations, test hotels and activities to ensure we have a first hand knowledge and can then match the holiday to suit the client. A good agent should know works and what to avoid.
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Old 25.03.2011, 11:15
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Re: Luxury holidays

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I personally also am more of the adventure-kinda type, but the luxury holiday business is certainly interresting, and if the marketing is done well, it will be used.
If one doesn't have time to organize anything, the luxury starts with having someone taking care for it and you know its just going to be awesome.
I had a look at the webpage, its beautiful, but I dont see any prices (they must be exospheric ), nor how to book. (I must say I am kinda tempted by that hacienda )
Thanks. Exosphere is primarily targeted at the affluent type who doesn't have time to organise a holiday themselves and want the reassurance that the holiday is going to be exceptional. Everythinng we do is completely tailored to the client (no package holidays) which is why we don't put prices on the website - every holiday is different as every client is different.

Hacienda de San Rafael is fab, especially in spring or autumn before it gets too hot.
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Old 25.03.2011, 11:18
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Re: Luxury holidays

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Thanks. Exosphere is primarily targeted at the affluent type who doesn't have time to organise a holiday themselves and want the reassurance that the holiday is going to be exceptional. Everythinng we do is completely tailored to the client (no package holidays) which is why we don't put prices on the website - every holiday is different as every client is different.

Hacienda de San Rafael is fab, especially in spring or autumn before it gets too hot.

Nobody here but us poor folk
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Old 25.03.2011, 11:35
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Re: Luxury holidays

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too hot.
no entiendo

I am check out this exosphere website, it looks good. Do you do flights and transfers too?
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Old 25.03.2011, 11:40
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Re: Luxury holidays

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Ok, I think the topic is too complex to get an easy answer. Yes, we spend a significant amount of our hard earned on travelling, so we would be probably in your target group. But there is not a single way we book a vacation, it depends:

- Skiing vacation or city trips within the EU: DIY. Plenty of cheap airline offers available and a hotel seperately (often on booking.com). Being in Switzerland, we spend our skiing vacation here... using a UK agent to book a local hotel sounds absurd.
- Beach vacation (well, we both dive, so "diving vacation" is maybe more accurate): We up to now booked most of the times through holidaycheck.de (or .com, .fr, .it...), which I believe is actually registered in Switzerland while mainly serving EU customers for tax reasons. It is basically a "German version of trip advisor" plus a search engine for deals with basically all German tour operators. I always compared the prices a lot, but their search engine turned in my cases out to be damn close to unbeatable. So if a standardized packaged is what you are after - for us this was typically the case for the Maldives - why go through more expensive agents? I do not need their advice as the first hand experiences written by actual torusits have beaten the glossy catalogue texts every single time...
- Adventure trips. (In our case: Dive safaris) I book through specialist agents, they typically run this as a side business to a dive school or similar. These people know the sport better than I do and I rely on their expertise. I'd do the same for other sports.

So to conclude: I do not really see a need for a special agent "for expats" - I do not see any added value you could bring me for me not being Swiss. I hardly like to pay agents, but do so when they add value by being very kowledgabel about something specific - like the dive tour agents I mentioned. So as long as you do not offer something special: Why you?
You're right, the topic is complex as everyone has a preferred method of organising a holiday. Ours is just one way it can be done and doesn't suit everyone. It is popular in the UK because of the way the Brits travel, therefore I wanted to test the water to get an overview before i head out to do more research on this topic here.

The Exosphere business model in the UK (which i am looking to see if it is worth replicating out here) is that of a consultancy. We are pretty unique in the UK, which is why we have been so succesful in the 4 years since we launched, because we are flexible. Given that the vast majority of travel companies here in Switzerland seem to be shop front agencies i think we would be unique here too.

We don't contract specific product so our client's choices are not limited. At any one time we can be working on an enquiry/booking for a villa in the Mediterranean or ski hotel/chalet or a safari in Africa or a cultural holiday in India or a weekend in St Petersburg etc. We are able to do this as our expert knowledge is of the industry as a whole and then each member of the team has specific destination knowledge. If we don't know somewhere we know which travel companies do have a specific knowledge, which ones are good and contact them on your behalf.

We are a small team with a small number of high end clients and 80% of our clients are repeaters (industry average is around 20%). We have the time to get to know them and their travel habits inside out so they benefit from us being able to organise a holiday suited to them every time. They also know they only have to make one phone call/email to us and we will do all the research for them saving them time.

At the end of the day our service won't appeal to everyone but as we are a small independent company we only work with a small number of clients anyway to keep our service levels high. Our growth has been entirely through recomendations and word of mouth so i know that we do works.

Anyway enough of my ramblings. That probably gives a clearer picture of why Exosphere so i'll leave it there.
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