Kuoni parent launches direct-sell tailor-made web brand

ER Touristik has launched an online direct-sell brand which will offer “off the shelf” tailor-made holidays to long-haul destinations.

Meraki Travel has an online itinerary builder which enables users to customise their own trip, by choosing a base itinerary then adding “experience packs” from a menu before selecting accommodation type.

The first destination available to book is India, with South Africa, Kenya & Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Canada and China to follow.

The brand is targeted at the “older Millennial empty nester”, with prices leading-in at around £1,400, including flights.

The news was announced at an event during Abta’s Travel Convention in Seville on Tuesday.

DER Touristik UK chief executive Derek Jones said the business had spotted a gap in the market to target this age group which he said presented with a basic structure is “confident customising a holiday online” themselves.

He said the business was inspired by other brands such as Made.com and Mini, which offer a finite list of customisable options for their products.

“This is off the shelf tailor-made,” he said. “I know that sounds like an oxymoron but we’ve spotted the trend elsewhere in other markets.

“If you think about the Mini, they start with a base idea and then it can be personalised from a list of options for the customer to choose from and you only need so many options to be able to create something totally unique.

“I think this generation value expertise but don’t necessarily need to experience it face to face.”

Once all destinations launch, there will be 10,000 holiday combinations possible. Customers will be able to save their itineraries and share them on social media.

Jones said it had leveraged its relationships with DMCs it uses across the group to help Meraki build its itineraries but operates completely separately to Kuoni and its other brands.

Meraki is being headed up by Matt Hodgson who has previously worked at Trailfinders and Travel Nation and currently employs 11 staff.

Its HQ will be based in High Street Kensington at a former Kuoni store, which closed earlier this year and transferred to nearby Peter Jones as a concession.

Asked if the new brand risked cannibalising Kuoni’s tailor-made offering and threaten agent sales, Jones said: “This is a different market which is web savvy and has different needs and requirements to Kuoni customers.

“In terms of the size of the market, this is about creating a brand that will feed a group, not about trying to get business from somewhere else currently. The high service face-to-face agent still applies to Kuoni and its customers and we won’t ever stop valuing the agent. It won’t impose on that space.”

Hodgson said: “We are trying to look different from traditional travel websites even down to our imagery. We go up to five star but we start at the lower entry level and the target audience is people who are web first who don’t necessarily want to speak to somebody or call someone up. They want to do it online.”

Meraki will be available to book from November 16.

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