Luxury Leaders Edition: Travel on A Silver Platter
Ardian Wibisono & Ester Christine Natalia
Research company Allied Market Research has forecast that the global luxury travel market is expected to be worth $1,154 billion by 2022, registering a CAGR of 6.4% during the forecast period of 2016-2022. Interestingly, Asia–Pacific is set to be the most lucrative market, with higher growth compared to the global market. In Indonesia, the opportunities for the business are also huge as the country’s richest continue to prosper – last year, the wealth of Forbes Indonesia’s 50 richest, for example, totaled $129 billion.
Dreamscape Travel Network is among the few companies in Indonesia catering to wealthy travelers’ needs and demands. Started in 2006, the company has facilitated many of Indonesia’s wealthiest in their luxury travels to unique destinations like safaris in Africa or cruises to the Antarctic in lavish accommodation. The company’s clients can spend billions of rupiah on their vacations. The company is the only one from Indonesia to be listed in the 300 best luxury travel designers by Traveller Made. And while competition between travel agencies has tightened with the emergence of online players, Dreamscape claims its business grew by triple digits in the past couple of years.
“I think the future of travel business will be specialization. People will still call travel agents for difficult things, like adventures, when they want to go to remote places, for difficult itineraries, luxury or something that special,” says Fitri Tresnawida, founder of dREAMSCAPE
Fitri started the business as a hobby. Growing up in the US and Europe, she often spent her time traveling. Thus, coming back to Indonesia she was often asked by friends to recommend places to visit and where to stay. The Internet was not that advanced back then, so there was not an abundance of travel information compared with today. Her good recommendations spread by word of mouth, more people contacted her and started giving
tips for her advice, which she used to pay for her travels. Along the way, Fitri began to see the business potential of what she did and set up a company that offered luxury travel concierge services to private banks and premium credit card companies. The company had three staff back then compared to today’s 50 in Indonesia and Singapore offices combined.
“I was paid by retainer, I still got a fee even if I didn’t get client, but I got more when I did. But when a bank closed its service it started referring me to its clients. It was back when Blackberry Messenger was popular and somehow many people sent me requests. It’s very Indonesian, you hit the right few people and they start passing your number. You don’t even need a brochure,” Fitri says.
Despite the growing demand, Fitri says her company has seen less competition because of the nature of the business, which creates a barrier to entry. Luxury travel services involve more than just offering travel packages to rich people. The company needs to take into consideration a client’s tastes, providing destinations and the convenience expected by the
Right now, Fitri says, thanks to Instagram, clients are seeking novel destinations and experiences, places that only a few travelers have been to. These places could be remote or hard to reach, but the company needs to find the most convenient way to get there and the most comfortable accommodation. The program has to be customized so it will suit all the
guests, which are often a mix, from toddlers to elderly people. And the program can be altered if the client wishes it, which is, of course, a luxury on its own. Thus, Dreamscape staff should be available at odd times, even if the middle of the night. Asian, especially Indonesian, clients also have different expectations compared with westerners, in terms of service and shorter trip duration for example. Thus, even international travel designers
cannot plug and play their services in the Asian market.
Those barriers lead to a big challenge, which is finding the human resources that meet the requirements. This is a major challenge that Dreamscape faces, which is why the company plans to slow down business growth this year to maintain service quality until it can recruit more talent. To get where the company is today, Dreamscape has not simply relied on resources available in the market but has chosen instead to develop talent.
“Recruitment is tough since the staff hire might never have experienced the first-class service, have never been to a hotel suite. So I take them and show them, they have to go through the training program, which includes table manners, hotel types, etc. There is a gap between talent and my clients. My clients hire me because I understand what they want and I need to bring my team up to the same level, which takes about 18 months,” Fitri says.
Fitri says all the trial and error she has experienced in the past 13 years has led to the company’s business model today. She says currently Dreamscape caters to three types of customers. Type A is the ultra-luxury type who demand the best accommodation, in the right location, with the best activities, and the shortest and most convenient ways to travel. Type B seeks luxury but not extravagance. Type C, meanwhile, prefers to spend more on
activities than accommodation. Customers can choose a package or customized trips, with extra service charges for the latter.
Dreamscape is also expanding its business into new markets. Last year it opened its Singapore office to tap into the market there. The office also connects with luxury travel suppliers that have not yet realized the potential of the Indonesian market. Fitri says, unfortunately, most of the suppliers are aware of Singapore but not Indonesia. It plans to open in Thailand and Vietnam next year, while the Philippines and Malaysia are scheduled for 2021, to increase volume. Dreamscape also sees the inbound potential, so it set up Discover Indonesia in 2015 offering exotic destinations in the country. Fitri says the company plans to forge an alliance with a global travel company in the next three years.
“Luxury travel in Indonesia is still in its infancy, but we are about to boom. The government did the right thing with the free visa, we were late about it but it’s a good call. However, there should be more resorts and logistics outside of Bali. We have a lot of islands but it’s always Bali,” She says.