‘Corporate concierges’ are delivering bespoke travel experiences to high-net-worth individuals and corporates. PUREBLACK is one of the most inspiring.
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 high-value 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 (“high-net-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% offshore.
“We offer unique experiences and global trends show that high-net-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.”