The move comes one year after Direct Travel, Inc., a travel management company based in Denver, CO, acquired Best Travel & Tours, Inc., in a move aimed at delivering value to both organization's clients. At the time Best Travel Gold was the luxury division of Best Travel & Tours, and following the acquisition it became a luxury travel division within Direct Travel's leisure group. Direct Travel, which also has regional headquarters in Paramus, NJ, Minneapolis, MN, and San Jose, CA, has an annual sales volume of roughly $1.75 billion, of which $150 million is leisure sales.
"The agreement was to pretty much leave everything as it is for a year," Boomgarden says. "Direct Travel is in a big acquisition mode, and they didn't want to change anything right away."
Over the course of that year, Boomgarden says she saw an opportunity to work more closely with Direct Travel's high-touch corporate clients from major law firms and financial institutions.
"When there was crossover and you had the CEO of a company traveling with his wife, oftentimes it was handed over to our division," says Boomgarden.
The result was Direct Travel Luxe, a new luxury travel brand that will offer 24-hour concierge service and bespoke travel experiences, each of which will be designed by Boomgarden and her team -- think private chateaux visits in Burgundy and Bordeaux, or a whisky tour with a private Whisky Ambassador. Like Best Travel Gold before it, Direct Travel Luxe will remain by invitation only, and will work with both leisure and business travel clients. The new division has partnered with several luxury hotels and cruise lines, and it is also a member of Virtuoso.
The new brand will reside within Direct Travel's leisure business unit under the leadership of Gerard Bellino, VP, leisure travel business development and strategic partnerships. Victoria Boomgarden will serve as the brand's president. Direct Travel's leisure division is primarily focused on the premium and above marketplace, with 85 percent of its leisure sales falling in that space. Direct Travel Luxe will be Direct Travel's first initiative focused solely on ultra-high net worth clients.
"All the executive clients that we've attracted, particularly in the private equity firms, they've been begging for this type of product that can't be delivered unless you have a complete division devoted to it," explains Boomgarden.
The new division will also remain fee-based, like Best Travel Gold before it.
"This type of client wants the risk gone, they want you to just make it happen," Boomgarden says. "It's a business model that's been very sucessful."
Direct Travel Luxe will remain based in Naperville, IL, but the new division is looking to expand to more locations in the U.S., Boomgarden says. Right now the main focus is on places where Direct Travel Luxe already has advisors, such as San Jose, CA, Naples, FL, and Paramus, NJ.
The division also plans to grow its business through a series of events it is developing in partnership with several high-end brands, the first of which will take place at The Langham, Chicago in January, says Jennefer Teegen, director of national marketing-leisure at Direct Travel.
"We're trying to bring in more elements than just our partners in the travel space, to provide more for clients," Teegan says. "So we wanted to have an exclusive design element to each event."
The events will aim to connect clients with Direct Travel Luxe's luxury travel partners. Other events under discussion include a pre- or post-Fashion Week gathering at The Langham, London, an event at the Belmond Charleston Place in South Carolina, and a gathering produced with Tiffany's in the Chicago area.
Becoming a part of Direct Travel has also provided Direct Travel Luxe with additional resources for growth, Boomgarden says. Working with a full team has allowed the division to put together a full marketing plan.
"I think it elevates the exposure," Boomgarden says. "This isn't just the Victoria Boomgarden show, this is the Direct Travel Luxe show."
Direct Travel Luxe will open its membership in January. The new brand will make its official debut next week at ILTM Cannes.