A website which claims to be the first in the UK to combine quality content with trip planning and price comparison tools is being unveiled today (Tuesday).
Secret Earth is the brainchild of two friends – chartered accountant Matthew Roach and IT expert John Kat.
The team also includes former Time Out editorial director James Alexander and Katherine Gershon, previously with Abercrombie & Kent, Silverjet and Thomas Cook, as a non-executive director.
The site is launching with more than 100 destination guides, 1,300 activities and attractions, 550 hotels, and 650 restaurants and bars, with more being added each week.
Secretearth.com is launching initially with ‘invitation-only’ access, a strategy which will see more than 5,000 founding members encouraged to invite friends and family to become involved.
The viral ‘people-referral’ strategy has been used in the past by the likes of Pinterest, Jetsetter, Gmail and US fashion brand Gilt, to create ‘pent up’ demand and interest.
Content is initially aimed at the UK, with European short break information. Content covering the Americas and then Asia will be expanded as Secret Earth expands into those regions.
Secret Earth does not offer its own booking service but instead offers recommendations on who to book with.
Its in-site price aggregator compares the lowest prices on six leading online travel agents, including Expedia, Hotels.com and Lastminute.com, and provides its members with links to booking on the OTA’s own site.
For activities & tours, Secret Earth provides online booking through Viator, as well as independent recommendations for reputable operators who can organise the activity or tour.
The start-up is privately funded and will earn revenue from affiliate commissions through a number of partnership agreements, for example with Viator for online activities and tours, and OTAs in the price comparison tools.
Recommended travel suppliers may upgrade their listing on Secret Earth for a small annual fee to include special offers and a company profile page.
However, the recommendation of these travel suppliers is made independently by Secret Earth’s writers and the travel supplier’s decision whether to upgrade or not comes after they have been recommended.
Chief executive Roach said: “Our ultimate goal is to turn the travel industry into one which is far more demand driven rather than supply driven. Secret Earth aims to become a hub where members’ travel demands can be matched with suppliers.”
He added: “We found there was no middle ground for independent travellers like us between going to a specialist tour operator, or going it alone and sifting through literally hundreds of websites giving tips and advice and other sites specialising in booking elements of the trip.
“Our three-stage ‘Discover, Plan and Book’ process brings this all together with quality and intelligently presented content, insider tips and clever planning and booking tools.”