Interview with Luke McCormick Founder of Edge Retreats Luxury Villas
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in northern NSW in Australia, close to some wonderful beach towns such as Yamba and Byron Bay, a few hours drive from the Gold Coast and Brisbane, where I went to university.
How did you start in the luxury travel industry?
I started out in the travel industry as a freelance writer, contributing to a few online publications such as Orange Travel and AOL Travel. After that I joined a well-established luxury tailor-made travel club, working as an online editor for the company’s website, where I was lucky enough to get involved with the promotion of some fantastic hotels and destinations. Another highlight was working for Secret Escapes, a flash-sales website specialising in luxury hotels and holidays.
When and how did you start your company?
My company actually started as a blog, where I was reviewing luxury and design hotels in my spare time. I really enjoy the process of finding exceptional properties and presenting them to an audience in a stylish way. Over time I started to incorporate villas into the site and gradually readers began contacting me asking for details on how to book the properties I was reviewing. At that point I thought more seriously about how I could expand the collection and offer a really superior experience and so the idea for the company was born.
How did you go about finding investment for your business and in what ways have they supported your growth?
I think the investment found me actually! While I was going through the process of developing a business plan, I attended a lean start up workshop that was held at the British Library’s IP centre. From that, one of the organisers made an introduction to a VC firm, who then invited me in for a meeting. A few meetings later and they made an offer for investment. My investors have been instrumental in supporting the company’s growth. They have provided me with the office space (and time) to develop my idea, funds to hire staff, invest in marketing and development of a great website that customers will hopefully enjoy using (part of the investment involves access to a team of product, design, development, marketing and recruitment specialists) as well as their years of experience in working with growth stage companies.
Who have been the most interesting clients and why?
Discretion is a big part of the service we provide, but we have helped famous authors, successful business people and many others. We really get to know our clients (it’s very common for them to Whatsapp message me at all hours due to their international travel schedules), so it’s great to learn how we fit in with their lifestyles.
Who is your dream company or brand to partner with that you really admire?
I’m personally very interested in Swiss watches, so anything IWC, Audemars Piguet, Omega, Panerai would be great, but perhaps lifestyle brands, such as Globetrotter, Orlebar Brown, Soho House, Rapha or even Monocle Magazine, I really enjoy their edit on the latest trends in global affairs.
What actions and qualities most contributed to your success?
Action is probably the one that help the most in that I just got started and tried to create something that people would hopefully find value in. I’m ambitious and think big and creatively, so that’s helped create the vision. I try to be positive and have a sense of humour in everything I do and really focus on delivering quality work that I can be proud of, be it design, product, or service. I also try to motivate the people I work with to really stretch themselves and to do their best.
What for you are the essential pillars of a true lasting luxury brand?
An absolute focus on quality and exceptional experience.
What are discerning clients really looking for in a luxury villa travel experience?
Luxury is all about exclusivity and authenticity. The discerning traveller is looking for an exceptional location, blended with the local environment and offering enriching lifestyle experiences
They are looking for one-off experiences, an incredible level of service, access, and uniqueness. When you can combine privacy, luxury and relaxation you have the perfect recipe for a great holiday experience.
What is your business USP? How did you get the inspiration to differentiate yourself from the competition in this space?
Our product is a collection of the finest on and off market villas in the world that are curated by experts into a single platform, with live availability, seamless booking and unparalleled concierge service.
We aim to offer the ultimate luxury villa rental experience from start to finish and offer a curated collection of exceptional properties that are vetted before we accept them.
No company is taking a truly global view of the luxury villa market. I want clients – whether they are in Singapore or Sydney, Dubai or Dallas – to think of Edge Retreats as the best option available.
What technological edge do you bring to this market?
We have an experienced team of tech and product tech experts that are creating a best-in-class web and mobile experience for our clients. That involves offering online booking and live availability and pricing for our villas to make it easier for clients to find and book and also for owners to work with us to offer their villas for rent. We have a host of other cutting-edge features in the pipeline that we will be releasing over the next 12 months.
Who has been your most influential mentor/company?
Design Hotels has done a great job of carving out a niche in the design hotel space and were genuine leaders in defining that hotel category. I also respect the approach of Mr and Mrs Smith in the boutique hotel space. In the non-travel space I think Rapha has done a brilliant job of creating a fantastic brand that encompasses the whole cycling lifestyle – from clothing and kit, to the clubs, cafes and travel tours they organise.
What changes have you seen that most affect the luxury travel tech space now and in the future?
Booking trends are certainly changing and moving towards shorter lead times from booking to travel and customers now rightly expect to have good experiences, both online and on mobile. Transparency is key as is the need to provide a multi-channel approach to customer service.
Your favourite city and why?
I’m not sure I’ve found my favourite yet! Maybe that’s what keeps me searching for the best places to travel. Saying that I enjoy Villefranche-sur-Mer on the Cote d’Azur and also the northern areas of the Costa Brava. I also always really enjoy spending time in Byron Bay as it’s close to home, has great restaurants and places to stay and is incredibly relaxed.
What regions are you planning to expand into?
We are in the process of expanding into the Caribbean and Middle East, while also increasing the number of properties we feature in the Asia-Pacific region.
What are you working on now and what are your plans for the future?
Right now we are working on launching a completely new version of the website and features that will help our clients throughout the entire holiday process, from initial research right through to booking and check-in and home again. We are also expanding the team and continuing the hunt for the best places to promote to our clients.