Kuoni parent DER Touristik UK is to launch a new tailor-made brand for long-haul holidays.
Meraki Travel will offer complex, long-haul trips that customers will be able to build themselves online within an existing framework..
DER Touristik said it was targeting consumers who weren’t already customers of Kuoni or its other specialist brands Carrier, Kirker, CV Villas and Voyage Jules Verne.
Child-free millennials are an obvious new market, said a spokeswoman, but said Meraki wanted to avoid defining customers by age.
“This is about identifying the trends in travel and growing our business,” she added.
Der Touristik UK CEO Derek Jones said the product was unique. “As far as we’re aware it’s not available anywhere else in the world.”
Meraki, which will launch to consumers on November 16, will initially offer tailor-made trips to India and South Africa; holidays to China, East Africa, Sri Lanka and Canada will follow by the end of the year. Other destinations will be added in 2019.
Product will be mainly four-star, so it doesn’t overlap with the company’s other, more upmarket, brands.
“The brand is a new concept for tailor-made travel and differs from anything else currently available, making complex tailor-made trips easy and fun to plan, customise and then book online,” said Jones. The lead-in price is expected to be about £1300 per person.
“The main thing that makes Meraki Travel different is the online itinerary builder, which has been designed to be simple and intuitive with dynamic functionality which allows people to customise a base itinerary,” added Jones.
In India, the accommodation ranges from three-star hotels to character properties and premium and luxury hotels – or in some cases palaces. Experiences on offer range from foodie to active.
Meraki will offer over 1,200 different variations for India alone, with live pricing changes as the customer goes through the itinerary builder and makes selections.
Itineraries can be saved, shared and paid for online and travel documents will be saved in the My Meraki section of the site.
Meraki Travel is headed up by Matt Hodgson, who joined DER Touristik UK earlier this year. He has previously worked for Trailfinders, Travel Nation and the British Exploration Society in commercial, sales and strategic development roles.
Reporting to Jones, Hodgsoon leads a team of eight and will be based in new offices in High Street Kensington (pictured)
The name Meraki [Murr-ahh-key] is a Greek word used to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love.
“This is a completely new approach to tailor-made travel and something quite different from anything currently available and we know there is a gap in the market for what we’re creating,” added Jones.
“Creating a tailor-made trip purely online is still a remarkably tricky thing to do, mainly as there are so many elements to get right from the flights, to the hotels, transfers and experiences. Many online brands still direct people to pick up the phone when it comes to booking.
“Yet we know there are customers who, presented with a basic structure, will happily tweak and customise something to their needs. If you look at brands like made.com they’ve made customising things like sofas simple and easy to do by allowing people to choose their model, size, budget, fabrics and we know that confidence to book bigger ticket items online is growing amongst a particular customer base.”
The brand sits separately from Kuoni, which will continue to offer a complete worldwide tailor-made travel collection with a focus on premium hotels, resorts and experiences.
“Meraki signals our ambitious plans to grow the DER Touristik group, which is why we have put a completely separate team in place to lead it. We’re appealing to customers who don’t know or currently consider the Kuoni brand or our other specialist businesses,” added Jones.
“We’re committed to identifying new opportunities, looking forward at the trends in travel and delivering an outstanding experience when we find something we know fits our vision.”
Hodgson added: “This has been many months in the making and a concept which we think people are going to love. Having worked in tailor-made travel for the past two decades I know we’ve got a concept that’s got a clear space in the travel market.
“This is for people who genuinly want to book something online themselves, without them ending up going down a rabbit hole.”
The brand will have a separate marketing team and investment is being made in making the brand highly visible, primarily with a creative digital campaign and dedicated PR agency.