Travel has always been an important part of Alexandra Ormerod’s life but when she and her husband, Tom, started a family, they had to make some drastic changes to where they chose to stay. “We realised that hotels were a very different proposition with a young child,” she laughs. “Anyone who has travelled with an infant and had to squeeze a travel cot into a wardrobe or an ensuite will be able to relate to that!”
Beyond hotels, the options for young families were limited to serviced apartments or holiday homes “where if you arrived after 5pm you might have to pick the keys up from the local fish and chip shop.”
But when the couple made a seachange to Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, they discovered that many of their neighbours had houses in Melbourne that were only being used for a few nights each month.
The couple instantly saw an opportunity to create the type of high-end stay they’d been searching for. Taking advantage of Alexandra’s experience in travel marketing and Tom’s property sales background, they founded Luxico in October 2013 with two properties in Melbourne. Within months they had 20 Melbourne properties on the books and by 2015 they’d expanded into Sydney.
Last financial year, Luxico hosted more than 20,000 room nights at 300 properties in eight locations along the east coast. And with Western Australia and Tasmania on the horizon, that trajectory is set to continue. But despite the steady growth, Luxico is still a very seasonal business and the Ormerods always needs to be mindful of cash flow.
“During off-peak periods, we need to balance our cash reserves carefully,” Alexandra says. “Putting expenses like our tax bill on our American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card gives us an extra buffer with up to 51 days to pay for purchases.¹ That helps us make it through to summer, when everything goes crazy.”
“Even when we’re not busy, we need to be thinking about the future; digital marketing is a key driver for our business and we need to invest in that year round so that Luxico can continue to grow. A campaign might cost as much as $120,000, which is a significant investment, but with no pre-set spending limit² on the Card, we can pay for that with a single transaction. Plus, every time we use the Card we’re earning Qantas Points³ that we can redeem for flights – that’s really important for a geographically fragmented business like ours.”
The business employs a regional manager and concierge team in each of Luxico’s eight locations and they work together to create a welcoming, hotel-like experience. Before guests arrive, the concierge checks the property and makes sure it has everything from towels and slippers to a gourmet hamper and an age-appropriate toy box if there are children staying. After guests settle in, they remain on call to provide restaurant recommendations, tour bookings and all the assistance you’d expect from a hotel.
The high level of service Luxico was able to provide hasn’t just turned heads here in Australia – when Airbnb launched its Airbnb Luxe portfolio, they partnered with Luxico to provide on-ground support. “They really needed us to give high-end homeowners the confidence to have their homes listed on the platform while we have access to their technology and marketing expertise, so it’s a valuable two-way partnership,” says Alexandra.
Even more exclusive is the list of super-luxe “ultravillas” that have hosted A-listers like David Beckham, Ed Sheeran and Rita Ora. Each comes with a range of extra perks, including full butler service, a pre-stocked fridge and sommelier, and she says the demand for these premium listings is higher than ever.
“Eight years ago, I was so impressed by the properties we were onboarding that were $1,500 a night,” recalls Alexandra. “Now we’ve got properties that are $15,000 and it seems like every listing becomes my new favourite. I can’t wait to see what’s coming up next.”
Unlock the possibilities
Alexandra Ormerod shares her top small business tips.
• The key to … operating online
“Running an online platform is a lot of work and we have upwards of 40 software subscriptions to help with everything from accounts and payroll to meetings, bookings and social media posts. A lot of those companies are based overseas and we make all of our international purchases on our American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card. That way it’s easy to reconcile the payments and because American Express has excellent fraud protection we’ll know straight away if anything goes wrong.”
• The key to … keeping track of expenses
“Our leadership team travels frequently and they need an easy way to pay for expenses when they’re on the road. Because we can add up to 99 employee card members at no additional cost⁵, everyone who needs a Card has one and we’re able to accrue Qantas Points on all of their expenses. I really like the fact that you can easily modify employees’ spending limits at any time and the points they earn can be redeemed for flights and hotels to keep travel costs as low as possible. And because American Express is integrated with Xero, all those expenses flow through for reconciliation, which saves us having to enter them manually.”
• The key to … maintaining strong client relationships
“I’ve done more than a thousand Zoom meetings with travel agents over the past two years and it's just not the same as catching up with someone face-to-face. Once we reconnect with our key clients, we see an immediate uptick in sales referrals so it's absolutely essential to see them on a regular basis. And when we travel, we use the Qantas Points³ earned through our American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card to book flights, hotels and hire cars, which saves a significant amount of money.”
• The key to … finding your niche
“If you see a gap in the market that appeals to you, there’s a good chance it will appeal to other people with a similar lifestyle. When we started, it was actually easier to rent a holiday villa in Europe or the US than it was within Australia. We realised that was an opportunity so we took something that was traditionally a real estate product in Australia and improved the experience for the consumer by turning it into a travel and hospitality product.”
• The key to … being prepared for anything
“Years ago we were travelling in the UK and my husband's aunt passed away unexpectedly, so we had to cancel the remainder of our itinerary. My standard travel insurance didn't cover me, which was a shock. Fortunately I’d booked the return trip on my American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card, which has complimentary travel insurance.⁴ Not only did American Express cover the loss of costs, they were so responsive that I always use the Card when purchasing travel products now.”
*120,000 bonus Qantas Points: Offer only available to new American Express Card Members who apply by 7 September 2022, are approved and spend $3,000 on their new Card in the first two (2) months from the Card approval date. Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any other Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer. 120,000 Bonus Qantas Points will be awarded to the eligible Card Member's Account 8-10 weeks after the spend criteria has been met. Subject to the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card Points Terms and Conditions. $450 annual fee applies. This advertised offer is not applicable or valid in conjunction with any other advertised or promotional offer.