Nena Chaletzos is no ordinary CEO. Yes, she lives in hip Stoke Newington with her management consultant husband.
Yes, she’s the founder of travel tech company Luxtripper, a four and five-star holiday search engine. But she’s also an open-minded individual who’s a great believer in alternative therapies.
On her desk lies a mystical water stick and she openly admits doing reiki on her Maine Coon cats.
“I’ve always been able to sense energy. When I did reiki once on my girl cat, the boy one wouldn’t come near me for days,” says Nena, with a laugh.
These holistic therapies aren’t whims though – they help her in business and to manage a busy lifestyle, alongside her pragmatic thinking and decision making. “I perform reiki on myself and use it to relax and switch off,” she explains.
Nena’s also qualified in aura reading. “It’s no hocus-pocus because colour frequencies leave different scientific energies and aura readers simply interpret what they are.
I always use aura-soma in business, for example, turquoise is the colour of mass communication and every time we put a picture with that colour on Facebook it goes viral,” she continues. There are indeed lots of photos on Luxtripper of clear seas lapping against unspoilt beaches.
Before Luxtripper, Nena spent 16 years in HR, working at senior level on company strategy for culture and communication, globalisation and bridging cultural challenges, mobilizing workforces and advising on how to keep market share.
Today, she leads a talented team of five employees at Luxtripper’s new office in Aldgate Tower, where Uber has its HQ. Another seven employees are located internationally.
Luxtripper specialises in tailor-made holidays and will soon be able to offer price comparison.
It currently features 300 hotels – take a family break to Mauritius with activities for kids or grab the opportunity to stay at an elephant camp in a hilltop jungle retreat in Thailand.
The ‘Where to Go When©’ search technology makes choosing a holiday easy and quick because users can select their traveller type, month of travel, suitable weather and experiences, for example, ‘couple’, ‘January’, ‘hot weather’, ‘rejuvenate’ and up pops a selection of appropriate package deals.
What gave Nena the idea for Luxtripper, launched in February 2013, was her dad’s travel agency.
She wanted to take the traditional travel agent and bring it up to date by putting it online, while maintaining a personal service. Her website doesn’t have the limitations that running a bricks-and- mortar business does.
“Roughly 66% of people book their holidays online now but there’s a real loyalty when people go back to a travel agent because they do all the research,” she explains.
“The trouble is it’s not a scalable model because you require humans to do all the processing and if you want to make more sales you have to hire more people, so your costs go up.
Your revenue doesn’t always scale in proportion to your costs. I want to keep the expertise a travel agent offers and put it online.”
Luxtripper, on the other hand, knows no bounds. In a few clicks it can find affordable paradise escapes and give people results attuned to their interests in seconds, then travel experts take care of the rest.
It’s a one-stop-shop for holiday booking like TripAdvisor and Booking.com (enter the destination, date, number of guests and read reviews) but it goes further.
In the saturated market of travel websites (to name a few: AirBnB, Skyscanner, i-escape, Sawdays and Kayak, which sold to Priceline.com for $1.8bn in 2012), Luxtripper had to stand out, initially securing £215k through Crowdcube and Angels Den.
Now it’s seeking £400k on Crowdcube to help develop the Hector search engine (see box in top right). It’s hoped that with this advanced technology Luxtripper will scale up fast to compete with the likes of Booking.com, which boasts almost 834,000 hotels.
Marketing strategy will focus on paid-for advertising on social media.
“We only spend around £300 per month on Facebook ads and for that we get £2m worth of quote requests and potential business,” says Nena.
She puts this down to an engaged social following – Luxtripper’s Facebook has over 49k likes. The aim is to engage emotionally with customers and in 2017 they want to expand internationally.
With the Paris attacks still fresh in our minds, the growing terrorism threat could have a grave impact on the travel business.
Fortunately Luxtripper hasn’t been affected because it focuses on more far-flung destinations such as Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Seychelles.
However, those in the travel industry will be watching the political situation closely.
Nena is of the opinion that travellers will always be beguiled by other countries and cultures, and no matter what people will have a thirst for travel.
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