TEXT­BOOK TOURISM

‘Cor­po­rate concierges’ are de­liv­er­ing be­spoke travel ex­pe­ri­ences to high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­rates. PUREBLACK is one of the most in­spir­ing.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - BY K EVIN K EVANY KEVIN KEVANY IS AN AUCK­LAND- BASED FREE­LANCE WRITER.

It’s not of­ten those ‘per­fect com­pa­nies’ that text­book writ­ers dream about (in books you buy in the air­port and never read) ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

Imag­ine – three part­ners who’ve known each other since child­hood all come to­gether later, with the re­quired, var­ied ex­pe­ri­ences, to cre­ate magic. That’s ex­actly what hap­pened with PUREBLACK. Nick Hill, Mike He­witt and Liam Tay­lor could write the book, which you would read and be in­spired by, cov­er­ing ex­per­tise, tim­ing, fo­cus and nich­ing.

They re­fer to each other as co-founders and there would ap­pear to be no hi­er­ar­chy. That’s pos­si­bly be­cause they have sim­i­lar back­grounds, hav­ing grown up in Welling­ton, at­tended Welling­ton Col­lege, and ac­quired ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tions in tourism and out­door ad­ven­tur­ism.

Mike and Liam started DARKHORSE in 2012, fo­cus­ing on PR, events and dig­i­tal – rather than unique cor­po­rate and pri­vate, money-can’t-buy travel ex­pe­ri­ences. Not a core fo­cus at the time.

Nick takes up the story: “How­ever, it quickly be­came an area [Mike and Liam] couldn’t ig­nore with the amount of in­ter­est for be­spoke travel ex­pe­ri­ences. They wanted to cre­ate a separate brand around the lux­ury travel el­e­ment and knew I had a strong tourism and hospi­tal­ity back­ground and was in­ter­ested in start­ing my own busi­ness.

“We ap­pre­ci­ated we needed a ded­i­cated of­fer­ing to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo, but felt the tim­ing was right and it was a col­lec­tive call to make it hap­pen.

“We all have a strong en­tre­pre­neur­ial streak and bring dif­fer­ent skill-sets to PUREBLACK; be they buy­ing and sell­ing scoot­ers to fund univer­sity study, through to own­ing our own busi­nesses prior to PUREBLACK.

“In fact, we each have our own story which comes back to us hav­ing an eye for an op­por­tu­nity and want­ing to do things dif­fer­ently in busi­ness,” says Nick.

Their goal was to rein­vent how both cor­po­rate and pri­vate travel groups ex­pe­ri­ence both New Zealand and in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tions, and be­come mar­ket lead­ers in this area. So they took

stock of what they had go­ing.

Nick’s fa­ther ran his own pri­vate, high-end travel busi­ness, so it had al­ways been in his blood. Prior to DARKHORSE Liam had done ev­ery­thing you could think of in the in­dus­try – from own­ing a pri­vate guid­ing busi­ness in the South Is­land, to run­ning a des­ti­na­tion man­age­ment com­pany deal­ing with clients from all around the world.

Mike had worked with some of the big­gest global lux­ury brands. So be­tween them reck­oned they had the abil­ity to build on their prior knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ences to cre­ate some­thing unique.

It should be rel­a­tively easy to do. They just needed to make it hap­pen.

“We had lots of ex­ter­nal in­put from other en­trepreneurs, in­clud­ing some of New Zealand’s top CEOs, to fine-tune our point-of-dif­fer­ence and our ap­proach. That process en­ables us to keep one step ahead of the game and chal­lenges us to stay true to what we are trying to achieve,” says Nick.

“I should add too, we are con­stantly en­cour­aged and sup­ported by Tourism New Zealand and the fact they have de­vel­oped their own ‘Pre­mium Depart­ment’ tar­get­ing high­value vis­i­tors to New Zealand has been a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in in­creased demand from these vis­i­tors.”

NOTH­ING’S TOO MUCH TROU­BLE

PUREBLACK’s unique ‘cor­po­rate concierge’ model quickly gained trac­tion, given they were able to pro­vide any­thing to clients – be it aged and rare cham­pagne, celebrity chefs, or­gan­is­ing money-can’t-buy re­treats and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

“We have also had some great early suc­cess around lo­cal and off­shore cor­po­rate and pri­vate travel with PUREBLACK al­ready ac­tive in mar­kets like Ja­pan, Fiji, the US and in New Zealand.”

Hav­ing had a soft launch ini­tially, “to en­sure we were not com­pro­mis­ing on qual­ity”, most of the busi­ness’s con­tracts have been de­rived from ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships and word-of-mouth (“high­net-worth in­di­vid­u­als all talk to each other”).

Tak­ing the time to stop and cel­e­brate big wins is in­te­gral to their cul­ture too.

“An im­por­tant les­son we all learnt pre­vi­ously is to make sure we are grow­ing sus­tain­ably, so that’s a strong fo­cus for us,” ex­plains Nick. “With a tal­ented team and a good pool of ini­tial work, we have been able to do this quickly, al­low­ing us to scale the re­quired ca­pac­ity to have a strong na­tional and in­ter­na­tional pres­ence.”

He says the busi­ness split is around 80 per­cent lo­cal and 20 per­cent off­shore.

“We of­fer unique ex­pe­ri­ences and global trends show that high­net-wealth in­di­vid­u­als are in­creas­ingly want­ing to spend their money and time on be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ences and travel, not just goods.

“Ul­ti­mately we have to de­liver on what we say we will do. That’s a daily em­pha­sis. We are only as good as a client’s last ex­pe­ri­ence. So we are con­stantly push­ing to over-de­liver and, if we do that, it will put us in good stead to con­tinue to bring in new clients.”

Is the trio con­cerned about oth­ers im­i­tat­ing their of­fer­ings and un­der­cut­ting them?

“We be­lieve you can’t repli­cate our net­works and re­la­tion­ships and the value that these bring to our busi­ness. We’ve built these over a long pe­riod of time,” says Nick.

“These en­able us to ac­cess peo­ple from dif­fer­ent mar­kets and in­dus­tries, places and ex­pe­ri­ences, and thereby un­lock ex­pe­ri­ences and op­por­tu­ni­ties other peo­ple can’t, re­gard­less of how much money they have.

“Our ap­proach to clients is also a unique point-of-dif­fer­ence. We fo­cus on what the client wants and make ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence be­spoke. We talk or meet with all our clients to get to know them per­son­ally, and what they are look­ing for.

“Each ex­pe­ri­ence we or­gan­ise is com­pletely unique with no two ex­pe­ri­ences the same. We don’t sell trips off brochures, since ev­ery as­pect is tai­lored to meet the client’s needs.

“In­stead we cre­ate ‘ex­pe­ri­en­tial travel’, re­sult­ing in vis­i­tors leav­ing New Zealand, feel­ing en­riched.”

QUAL­ITY OVER QUAN­TITY

At this stage, Nick. Mike and Liam are fo­cus­ing on de­liv­er­ing pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ences, but they would like to stay nim­ble and dy­namic, and are al­ways look­ing at na­tional and off­shore mar­kets.

“Look­ing ahead, our next of­fice will be in Queen­stown, as most of our do­mes­tic and in­bound vis­i­tors spend time here,” says Nick. “We are fre­quently in Aus­tralia meet­ing clients and we are trav­el­ing to the US later this year to meet with buy­ers.

“Our phi­los­o­phy has al­ways been qual­ity over quan­tity. We have aligned our­selves with Tourism New Zealand’s strat­egy of tar­get­ing high-value vis­i­tors with a daily spend much greater than the av­er­age vis­i­tor’s daily-spend.

“We see this as be­ing a far more sus­tain­able ap­proach for New Zealand in the long run, both from an in­fra­struc­ture and eco­log­i­cal im­pact point of view.”

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