Ultimate Travel Club
Ultimate Travel Club is a subscription service which strips out mark-ups and commissions to provide the lowest prices to consumers.
For a monthly cost of £19, travelers get access to lower prices for hotels, holiday rentals, flights, car hire, cruises and other leisure options such as theme parks, cinema and restaurants.
What is your 30‐second pitch to investors?
We enable members to book travel at trade prices! Subscribers save up to 40% on hotels, holidays, cruises, villas and much more. Unlike other travel websites we strip out mark‐ups and commission to guarantee members have access to the lowest prices.
We offer a 14 free trial, and guarantee the best prices. We don’t make money from selling travel, it’s the subscription fee which pays for our business operations. We estimate that more than seven million people in the U.K. alone could benefit from booking travel this way.
Ultimate Travel Club
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup
We have access to the same type of tried and tested reservation technology as most travel agents and online booking portals, and we are using a long‐established and highly regarded fulfilment partner to provide expert telephone support for our members. This way, we are utilising and supporting partners who are already part of the industry landscape, and who are keen to help us get the industry going again.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
Our strength is that we are the first UK travel subscription business set up to give members access to trade prices, and we have already developed and rolled‐out all the technology we need to successfully run the business.
The key weakness is that as we’re a totally new concept that’s a bit of a complicated message to get across to the public quickly. The opportunity for growth is huge as we all acknowledge the growing appeal of subscription‐ based businesses and we estimate that more than seven million Brits would benefit from booking their travel this way, and we have an adjoined lifestyle offering in our Travel Plus tier that could benefit even more people.
The threats come from others in the industry who may consider setting up a similar offering, but for them it would compromise their current business model.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
This brand‐new innovative approach, which we’ve launched just as the travel restrictions are easing, not only ensures consumers are always guaranteed to get the best rates, but they will also be able to book the widest range of dates, fares, rooms and locations available.
Unlike traditional agents and membership schemes, Ultimate Travel Club is entirely independent and able to offer genuine choice in the UK and worldwide. Their private members status means subscribers get access to commission‐free prices not available on public facing portals. All backed by an industry‐leading price guarantee, as well as ATOL and ABTA protection.
So, you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
That’s our biggest challenge. Getting the message out to the great British public that they could save money by booking travel this way is key. We are currently focusing on digital performance channels, and partnerships, but we intend to run some brand marketing in 2022.
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By offering potential members a 14‐day free trial we hope that we can get them to check our prices before booking elsewhere. They can see for themselves that our savings claims are real and that they will save money – more than the cost of their subscription, in fact ‐ and commit to joining at that point.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We know that consumers are savvy to the benefits of subscription‐based services therefore our vision is to create a growing community of like‐minded travellers who have the confidence to explore more because they are always paying less. Ultimately encouraging more travellers back into the hard‐hit hospitality sector. Supporting the travel and leisure sector in the UK and worldwide.
The company was born as a result of what we saw during the pandemic and the changing world of travel. We know the travel industry has had an extremely tough few years and we want to help it recover by making travel more accessible to everyone. Travel is more expensive with less choice in the short term and there is a huge pent‐up demand for people wanting to visit friends and family, escape and explore. We want to support the travel industry, get people travelling again and essentially bring back travel, better.
Members of Ultimate Travel Club can have access to savings of up to 40% at 900,000 hotels, package holidays, cruises, car hire, villa rentals as well as discounts on UK dining, cinemas, golf and days out and attractions. Subscription models are everywhere (meals to cook at home, cosmetics, TV, and even cars) and people are already comfortable with them. It’s a tried and tested model which works.
We are the first to use this model to provide access to travel at trade prices. And we love the travel industry and know there is such an appetite for exploring the world once again – that’s why it is important to us to be part of getting it back on its feet again, after such a difficult time. Our research showed three key demographics who will benefit from joining – millennial weekenders, thriving families and affluent empty nesters.
How and when will you make money?
Our overheads are being closely managed, so we forecast that we will be making a profit by the end of our first trading year.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
Ultimate Travel Club is founded by Stephen Knight and Brett Norton. Both have a huge passion and love of travel and the business is built from knowing there is a better way for the travel industry to work.
Stephen Knight, chairman: a seasoned chief marketing officer with more than 35 years experience. He has worked for Fortune Top 500 and FTSE Top 100 companies including The Walt Disney Company as the SVP for brand and marketing in EMEA. A former advertising agency executive, Stephen founded the world’s first virtual full‐service marketing agency, Pimento, which now has a global network of nearly 5500 people within 200 agencies and consultancies. He has served on various boards and holds several NED positions and has worked across the travel industry with Cruise, Airline and OTAs.
Brett Norton, chief executive officer: 20 years of experience in commercial strategy and marketing for travel, leisure and hospitality businesses in the U.K. Having worked both client and agency side he has been involved in or worked with a wide range of travel brands including Saga, Celebrity Cruises, Travelopia and Riviera.
Jae Hopkins, our chief marketing officer is an expert in the travel industry, previously head of communications at Butlins, marketing director of Exodus Travel and sales and marketing director at Eurotunnel.
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
Launching during the pandemic was challenging with the rules constantly changing. We knew however that the world of travel would eventually open up again as people love to explore the world around them. After the 18 months people have had we know there is a pent‐up need to travel.
We have just released research around hybrid holidays and how more and more employees will be allowing people to take sandwich breaks – combining work and travel.
It’s one of the key advantages to being a lean startup. We’ve worked in big corporates where “the machine” can be slow to turn and facilitate change but working with the small group of founding team members we have at UTC allows us to react to obstacles that fall into our paths.
Having a diversity of experience within the team helps us find creative ways to handle obstacles together.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact ‐ so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
Other travel clubs select which hotels or villas their members can go to – or only have a small range of dates. Travel agents (both on and offline) have a wide range of offerings, but charge commissions which eat into your holiday budget. And the more you spend, the more they charge – even if it’s just to make one booking. We’re providing the full range of holidays at home and abroad, at the best prices (guaranteed) and with ABTA / ATOL protection.
No one else is offering a membership for access to trade prices for a huge range of travel, so our proposition sets us apart. The travel industry is a big one, so there’s space for lots of different models to suit different customers, but savvy travel‐lovers will appreciate the innovation our model brings.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
Our plan is to grow. We have the funds to launch, and to start to drive subscriptions, but once we’ve proven consumer appetite exists for the model and understand the exact cost of acquisition through different channels, we may well look for investment in the scale‐up phase.
What is your end‐game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)
We are yet to decide on an end‐game. For now our ambition is to grow, establish our brand, and create a strong membership pool who play their part in developing a successful business. Once we’re there we’ll see what’s next.
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