selling THE LUXURY
New Zealand's luxury tourism sector continues to expand and evolve, with the visitor demographic diversifying Accommodation specialist MajorDomo is one of an increasing number of business driving growth in this space.
FOR FIONA STEVENS and Lisa Hayden it began one day over a coffee, followed by a wine, or two.
“We got chatting about business ideas and decided to take advantage of a gap we identified in the niche luxury accommodation market,” says Lisa.
“We both shared a vision of delivering exceptional service to both owners and guests, but wanted it to be fun for us and our guests. Because luxury doesn't have to be stuffy and unapproachable, they’re on holiday after all!”
MajorDomo, their nationwide luxury holiday accommodation, tourism experience and concierge service business, was the ultimate outcome of that chat. The business launched in June 2013.
In addition to a broad potential client base, Fiona and Lisa brought complementary skills to the business.
“Fi has a long, strong history in travel and the luxury tourism industry and my background was in a recent start-up in Melbourne and, prior to that, investment advisory,” says Lisa.
“MajorDomo is a European term which loosely translates as ‘the manager of a large country estate for absentee owners’. The name seemed appropriate given holiday homeowners are trusting us to market and manage their significant investment.”
The timing for MajorDomo couldn’t have been better. “When we launched Tourism New Zealand was about to initiate their premium sector strategy to engage and encourage high-end visitors to New Zealand; they did a fantastic job,” says Lisa.
“We invested heavily in technology, such as an easy-to-use website with mobile capability, live reservations systems, social media and search engine campaigns. If someone wants a villa or lodge holiday in New Zealand, we want them or their agent to find us and enjoy the experience.”
Fiona and Lisa say the luxury tourism sector delivers unique benefits. Tourists stay longer and spend more money so the relative economic benefit per premium visitor is larger. And they really 'get' New Zealand.
“They come back often, talk about their experiences and encourage friends, family and colleagues to come too,” explains Lisa.
“Their varied interests spread the economic benefit over the whole year, in terms of what they do and when they do it, which helps reduce the number of 'low season' periods and evens out cashflow for operators and suppliers."
Both women believe the ‘luxury’ product that New Zealand is putting out there is outstanding. It was spearheaded by the luxury lodge sector, and now it’s being extended to the private villa market.
Coming on stream in December 2016, the Mahu Whenua Ridgeline Homestead & Eco Sanctuary is MajorDomo’s latest property. Its story is its biggest drawcard: four iconic high country sheep stations over 155,000 acres; Mutt Lange's vision to regenerate the land including an endangered native bird breeding programme and the planting of over 1,350,000 native trees and shrubs; and more than 90 percent of the land under QEII Trust covenants – ensuring this largest conservation undertaking on private land in New Zealand's history is protected in perpetuity.
“Mahu Whenua means 'healing the land' and visitors will be inspired and awestruck by the beauty, diversity and scale of what surrounds them,” says Lisa. “Top that off with exclusive use of the gorgeous Ridgeline Homestead and cottages, a private chef, activities guide and concierge, all only 20 minutes from Wanaka, and you have the recipe for the most unique holiday in New Zealand.”
Fiona and Lisa believe the luxury tourism sector will continue to expand and evolve, and the visitor demographic will diversify.
“We see increasing demand for inter-generational travel options as family time becomes more precious and grandparents are more healthy and active for longer,” says Lisa. “Hands on eco-tourism and 'slow tourism' are also emerging themes in the premium sector.”
They plan to continue offering guests exceptional service and experiences, and be the ' go to' luxury accommodation specialists, “keeping in mind it’s not all about the accommodation but the activities and personal touch that you wrap around it”.