How they did it Se­cret Get­away’s Ta­nia Batista Hofer and An­drea Britt

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Gly­nis Horn­ing

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

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