Secret Escapes seeks trade partners for flash sale packages

Flash sale site Secret Escapes says it is looking for more trade partners to package up travel deals and it is pursuing plans to provide its users with a flights search engine.

Secret Escapes was set up with seed capital in early 2011 by former Dealchecker chief executive Alex Saint and former Seatwave product director Tom Valentine.

On Sunday it debuted its first television advert in the UK as part of a £3 million above the line campaign aimed at consolidating a promising first year.

The site, which currently markets exclusively to a UK database, claims to have one million registered members and is targeting three million by 2014.

Valentine said: “We think we are operating this model the best and the strongest of anyone in the UK and now we think is the right time to push a little harder.

“We started off running the business as hotel only and what we have seen is that when we promoted packages they have sold very well.

“We are trying more and more to package the travel with the hotel.”

To achieve this Secret Escapes is looking to build more partnerships with travel intermediaries like current suppliers Broadway Travel, Fleetway and Lowcost Travel Group.

A first promotion with traditional summer sun operator Cosmos is due to start this week.

Another option being looked at to help its users match its hotel product with a flight is adding a flight search to its site and selling the package under its own Atol.

This is a potentially time consuming and costly process, especially for a new Atol holder, and Secret Escapes has already gone through the process of joining trade association Abta.

Valentine said the deals site was happy to talk to package deals providers of all sizes, particularly those with good knowledge of the product they offer.

It is looking for knowledgeable agents who can package together their own relatively small volume but high quality unique product.

“We find market and resort knowledge works really strongly and that’s not necessarily confined to the big players. We have had some very successful sales from two or three man teams,” he said.

Valentine said packages were an ideal way to sell the sort of discretionary travel that Secret Escapes set out to specialise in.

It also sells at a higher price point than an accommodation-only deal, averaging around £1,000 per couple.

The new television advert seeks to get the point across that Secret Escapes itself is not a secret to British travellers but the quality and exclusivity of its deals is.

Valentine said the site has had plenty of success in persuading first timers to book a “less risky” UK weekend break first before coming back for a summer holiday.

He said Secret Escapes’ UK focus helps it understand the domestic market and what deals most attract British customers.

“Growing our database in this market seems to be going quite well, and the reason is receiving a regular email with lots of pretty hotels in it is quite a pleasant experience.

“We think selling travel through a daily deals site along with teeth whitening is quite a weird experience. Growing our database is all about having the right supply of content.”

As well as marketing directly to its database of one million subscribers, Secret Escapes also reaches a further two million potential customer via deals with The Telegraph, Teletext Holidays and Achica.

Following a first round of funding from venture capitalists and angel investors it has secured a second round of investment from its original VC backers.The site hopes to be able to start segmenting its database soon so that the most relevant deals are sent to subscribers depending on where they live in the UK.

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