Luxury agency owner expands with cruise and padel brands

The chief executive of luxury agency Savile Row Travel has developed two additional arms to the business, specialising in cruise and padel holidays.

Richard Lewis has created the Authentic Cruise Company and the Padel Travel Club to “enhance” his company’s offerings and to avoid “diluting” specialist products within the Savile Rowe Travel portfolio.

Lewis, who joined Savile Rowe Travel in 2021, said cruise sales had been “picking up”, prompting him to pursue the acquisition of a cruise agency, which subsequently fell through.

More: Savile Row Travel targets growth with new Africa appointment

Instead of dropping the plans or waiting to find an agency that “fit with where we were”, Lewis has opened his own luxury cruise agency targeting new-to-cruise customers.

Although Savile Row Travel will continue to sell some cruises, the agency will direct new cruise customers to the Authentic Cruise Company.

“We got relatively close to acquiring a cruise agency but it didn’t happen so we picked ourselves up and decided to deploy the capital to launch an agency of our own which means we’ve been able to design it exactly as we want so it’s a bit of a blessing in disguise,” he said.

“In the cruise industry, there is more and more capacity coming into the market, particularly in the luxury sector, which makes it a great time for us to launch.

“When you look at the size of the potential market for land-based customers to move into cruise combined with the value of luxury cruising, it is incredible.

“We want to convert land-based people into cruisers – they are our target.”

The agency, which opened earlier this month, hopes for 10-15% of sales to come through the trade, and has “significant” targets for its first year, aiming to make sales totalling “way into the seven figures”, according to Lewis.

He said the Authentic Cruise Company will have eight members of staff on board by the end of February and has scope to hire more once the business begins to grow.

Lewis vowed the agency would not participate in a “race to the bottom” on price, but would hold firm on cost, adding in “experiential” incentives for customers through its Horizon Club rewards programme rather than reducing prices.

“We don’t want to offer customers discounts on bookings as at the luxury end of the market, a £100 saving on a £10,000 booking doesn’t really make a difference.

“Instead, we want to offer more value-based rewards, such as inviting customers to Henley Regatta or surprising them with a free pre-cruise hotel stay.

“We need to find the right agents who are working in the luxury space, ideally those selling suite categories or longer itineraries, to support the business.

“We have an Atol so we can package up pre or post-cruise itineraries and can work with specialists to add things like safaris or road trips which make it a viable option for agents to sell.”

Additionally, Lewis has launched the Padel Travel Club selling holidays in France, Greece, Ireland, the Maldives, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland which have the option of combining a stay with professional padel coaching.

Lewis said he is capitalising on strong demand for padel-themed trips and is “filling a niche” in the market.

He currently has one member of staff focused solely on the Padel Travel Club and is seeking to recruit one additional person. Footballer John Terry has joined the company as a shareholder.

“The Padel Travel Club is purely dedicated to the growth of padel-themed holidays which is going through the roof,” said Lewis.

“I play myself and I had a look at who sells padel-specific holidays and no one is doing it, so I wanted to create something to fill that niche.”

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