GROUP buying has proven irresistible to consumers looking for cracking travel deals, but Ignite Travel Group founder Randall Deer (pictured) sees a major failing with the system that will be fixed with a new product his company will launch in association with Flight Centre (ASX: FLT).

Get Luxe will provide a "blended evolution" in group buying for travel, Deer tells Business News Australia following the news that Flight Centre had taken 49 per cent equity in his business.

The rollout of Get Luxe starts with a soft launch in 160 Escape Travel stores over two weeks in October and the product will continue to evolve both in-store and through digital channels such as direct marketing, mobile-friendly online offering and an app.

"We are going to launch a new style of 'exclusives' travel brand that will be an evolution of the voucher-style models you see today, combined with the benefits of traditional travel models," says Deer.

"It is a new brand and new product that will take advantage of a blend of traditional travel assets, acumen and resources with some of the more cutting edge or innovative aspects of the voucher space, which has been thriving.

"This will be the next evolution of those."

Currently, when a customer takes advantage of a travel deal from a group buying deal from a company such as Groupon or TripADeal, it is up to them to then contact the resort to enquire about dates and availability and possibly also book airfares. Often, the customer won't know what airline they are flying with during their travel, or the airfaire will not be included at all.

They certainly don't get the assistance of a travel agent, but Get Luxe will provide this.

"The customer service is not existent; they sell you the voucher and then palm you off," says Deer. "Previously, these types of deals have been reserved for voucher businesses who do not offer the full travel service, but we will make the product available with all the services."

As Deer says: "The journey matters."

"This is a game changer, there will genuinely be no matchable product in the market."

It's often said that when selling equity in a company it is the expertise of the buyer that is more important than the money and in this case Deer, who is highly experienced in the travel industry himself, has officially gone into cahoots with perhaps Australia's premier travel entrepreneur, Graham Turner.

"I have really enjoyed every interaction I have had with Graham and I can see going forward that will continue. He is a brilliant guy, extremely accomplished but still somehow maintains a humbleness and approachability," says Deer.

"I really like that he has the same level of passion as I do. He loves his company and loves his staff.

"We also think differently. I don't come from a travel background, I come from a resort background and we approach a problem from different angles and from that perspective there is learning going on from both sides. We think differently, but are aligned in our passion for our businesses."

The deal had been around two-and-a-half years in the making, nutted out over regular chats between Turner and Deer over lunch, where they would talk about what they could do together.

It took a while, as Deer says Turner wanted equity in Ignite Travel Group, while he was more interested in developing a new product.

"Eventually we had the right timing and the right product and we structured an equity deal and ended up here," says Deer.

Deer declined to disclose the price Flight Centre paid for 49 per cent equity in his business. In recent years, Ignite has continued the strong growth that made Deer the Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur of the Year in both 2011 and 2012.

"We have grown at 50-100 per cent over the past few years. We like to break things. We are going to step into this industry and grow another 100 per cent this year through investing in technology, evolving our business models and broadening our base products," says Deer.

Ignite will continue to manage its three businesses MyHoliday Centre, RewardsCorp and Holiday Exclusives from its Broadbeach head office.

The partnership will initially focus on exclusive limited time travel voucher deals that allows customers to be able to redeem online and instore, with Ignite managing fulfilment.

Following the deal's completion, managing director Deer will chair a four-person board comprising two Flight Centre executives and an additional Ignite representative.


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