How they did it Secret Getaway’s Tania Batista Hofer and Andrea Britt
Passionate hotelier Tania Batista Hofer and e-commerce and marketing whizz Andrea Britt combined their skills to set up Secret Getaway, South Africa’s first limited-offer and flash-sale luxury travel website that requires signing in to unlock the hand-picked offers.
Andrea and Tania met at a Cape Town braai and couldn’t have been more different – or better suited. Andrea was a digital strategist who’d chalked up years in marketing and communications. Through evolution and commitment, Tania had turned an early passion for travel and diving into a 10-year career managing luxury private island resorts with her German husband.
In 2010 Tania and her husband returned to South Africa for the Fifa World Cup and stayed, finding openings in the hospitality industry at luxurious Molori Safari Lodge in North West Province, then Tintswalo Atlantic in Hout Bay.
In 2015, friends of Andrea visited from the UK and she suggested they experience the five-star Tintswalo Atlantic. ‘They asked me to join them, but staying at a hotel just down the road from where I lived seemed a touch extravagant. Then Tania suggested a last-minute special if we were flexible on dates. That was all the motivation I needed! It was magic just walking through the doors of this beautiful hotel and being a tourist in my own town!’ says Andrea.
‘Talking about it with Tania, we realised there was a possible business here. If we could organise great local offers online for luxury stays at hotels looking to fill rooms without impacting their main sales channels, then we could create something that benefits both sides – and Secret Getaway was born!’
HOW DID THEY DO IT? 1 They began by doing extensive market research, seeing what was already available in online travel sales internationally, and what worked (and didn’t work) locally for travellers and for hotels. ‘Travellers were clearly overwhelmed by the unfiltered choices online – even little Kommetjie lists 108 properties!’ says Andrea. And, as Tania points out, ‘Hotels want a discreet up-market platform that reflects their brand, and that gets the promotion into the hands of those locals who are indecisive about where to stay, or who are perhaps not even planning on getting away, but then they see the hand-picked special and snap it up!’
2| The two women established the Secret Getaway brand and business plan: it would offer only five exclusive properties a week per category, hand-picked for good reviews, recommendations and uniqueness. Experiences are often packaged with member ‘value-adds’ such as complimentary upgrades, dinner or spa treatments. ‘Often, the finest part about a Secret Getaway offer is the fine print,’ says Andrea.
3 They did a trial launch to test the website – ‘an important precaution,’ Tania says – then went big on official launches at The Saxon in Joburg and Sir Richard Branson’s Mont Rochelle in Franschhoek, using a PR company.
4 They took an office in Constantia. ‘We mostly work remotely, but when you start a partnership it’s vital to be in the same space at least for the first few months, to experience each other in action, making pitches, handling frustrations,’ says Andrea. ‘It cements your relationship and a corporate culture.’
5 They took on a tech cofounder and admin assistant as business began growing. ‘We have a full-time developer who can see a friction point, like an abandoned basket, discover the reason and fix it, fast,’ Andrea says.
The result? ‘In two years Secret Getaway has grown 437%, with subscriptions up 15% to 20% each month,’ says Andrea with pride. What have they learnt? ‘The trick is to stay focused,’ says Tania. ‘Multiple opportunities drain your time – there’ll be time for them later, but you need to get the basics right.’
Andrea (left) and Tania launched their business, Secret Getaway, in 2016