Hotel flash sales site TheLuxeNomad pivots to booking serviceNews / OnlineBy Karthick Prabu | February 27, 2014Share This article was originally published on TheLuxeNomad, a startup that positioned itself as a member-only service to access luxury hotel flash sales, has pivoted to launch hotel, resort and villa bookings on site.In addition to an entire site relaunch, the Singapore-based company now allows customers to book luxury hotels at any time, and selected villas can be booked immediately (without the need for TT payments). The time-limited hotel flash sales will still continue to run.Founder and chief nomad, Stephanie Chai, says: “Initially, our main focus was on flash sales which worked well as a USP because these were deals you could not find elsewhere. "The catch however, was that they only ever lasted two weeks at a time. Whilst this segment appeals greatly to the deal-savvy traveller, we found there is also a growing segment that is not price sensitive and prefer to book at any point in the day. With this pivot, we now cover both ends of the market.”Share this quote Earlier version of TheLuxeNomad:TheLuxeNomad has also rolled out live customer support service (only during weekdays) and a new online magazine section on the site. The magazine offers insights on travel fashion and style, industry news, city guides and reviews from celebrity nomads.The company appoints celebrities like Taiwanese actor Godfrey Gao, Miss Malaysia Universe 2011, Deborah Henry, and Hong Kong supermodel couple Jocelyn Luko and Anthony Sandstrom to review its partner hotels. This has resulted in the startup gaining 60,000 Facebook fans and 21,000 Instagram followers.In August 2013, the company raised $700,000 funding led by Innosight Ventures with participation from Japanese investors, Zipan Enterprise Network.TheLuxeNomad tripled its revenues for the seven month period ended December 31, 2013.In January 2014, the site's traffic increased nearly 40% as the site is now partially open and its also because of the new content in site.Founded in July 2012, TheLuxeNomad now offers over 400 properties across Asia Pacific and Europe, and increased its employees to ten (from two) across its regional offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.The company is adding new destinations and hotels every week, and it is planning to double its properties by this year end.Tnooz spoke to the Chai to understand more about this change in business model:Why should a customer book hotel with TheLuxeNomad instead of going to Agoda or Hotels.com?Many reasons! I always use the analogy of going shopping - if you are buying a designer handbag do you buy it at the generic department store or the luxury specialist?Whilst I think sites like Agoda and Expedia do their job well, on one hand they have the issue of providing too many options which results in an 'information overload'.If I can generalise a luxury consumer, being well-to-do means a few things are important to you such as (a) your time and (b) customer service.By curating our hotels and villas, our members spend less time researching endless options and by providing live chat and 24/7 email response, we provide good customer service.In the near future, we will also be launching a loyalty program that will also tie up with luxury restaurants and bars across Asia as we all share the same target consumer.What is the percentage split among business from – Flash sales, hotels, villas?40% from flash sales, 35% from 24/7 hotel rates and 15% from villas.Our villa market is something that has been going from strength to strength so we will be pushing this in 2014.In Bali we have huge, beautiful million-dollar homes that can be rented at just $1,000 a night. When dealing with exotic destinations such as Phuket and Bali - sometimes you don't know who you're speaking to at the end of the line. At Luxe Nomad, we are selective with our villas and being based in Singapore and KL, it's easy for us to conduct trips to these destinations for reviews. So, one reason why people do come to us for villa bookings is the element of trust and safety.Mobile website/app on the cards?Definitely. I am working with our technology team daily to push this ahead. In five years time, I think we will be doing everything on our phone. Now, imagine iOS' personal assistant Siri booking your next holiday.Plan for next 18 months?Grow the company so that we truly become Asia-Pacific's number one luxury hotel and villa booking site with the magazine to boot.And of course, there's always China which we haven't made our way to yet. You might think that the barriers to launching a hotel booking site are low but in reality it isn't easy.You are faced with a chicken and egg situation in the beginning as no hotel wants to work with you because you have no traffic - and then no one wants to book with you because you have no hotels!I started with a staff of two with no funding, so this was a major hurdle we had to overcome.Our answer was to get celebrities on board to review partner hotels and promote them on their social media channels. Thus when we went to the hotels initially we were very frank with them. I told them - maybe we can't get you many bookings to start with but we'll get you exposure that would be difficult for you to get on your own. And that's how we started.My previous job was in television industry, so luckily I have always been nice to the celebrities I met along the way - and they in turn liked the concept and idea of TheLuxeNomad.