From the Think Exquisite selection, Rocca delle Tre Contrade, Sicily
The Thinking Traveller is one of those travel brands that resonates perfectly with me. They are one of the brands I most admire in the market right now. A luxury villa experience company with properties in Sicily, Puglia, Corsica, the Ionian Islands and Sporades Islands; everything they do, they do with charisma and passion.
As a holiday rental marketeer, I admire a travel brand for the way it communicates with its ideal client. The beautiful tapestry of visual and written content, which weaves its way through its digital and social platforms.
I am by no means the only admirer of this impeccable brand. The Thinking Traveller has won the Condé Nast World’s Top Villa Company three years in a row. It’s obviously doing something right, when it comes to delighting guests and travellers.
Let’s start with The Thinking Traveller’s brand story in a nutshell
“We’re a dynamic, family-run company with a passion for travel, a thirst for life and a simple mission: to hear our clients say, “That was the best holiday we’ve ever had. We’ll be back.”
That pretty much sums it up!
When and how did the concept for The Thinking Traveller come about?
We decided to start the company 17 years ago (2002) after a night spent on top of the erupting crater of Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands. Read and listen to Rossella and Huw’s full story.
Did you start out with an ideal guest in mind?
Our ideal guest at the beginning was anybody who wanted to discover the magic of Sicily. That’s where it all started, and we are seriously passionate “Siciliaphiles”.
How did you go about creating the brand values and identity of The Thinking Traveller. Did you have help, or was the concept totally created in-house?
The initial concept was entirely created in-house, on the floor of our apartment in Paris. Since then we have used a couple of branding consultants and designers to create various updates and developments of our visual identity and brand values, but the core of what we do has always remained the same.
Tell us about those values
Only exceptional villas
We’re defined by the quality of our villas and take on only a fraction of those we are offered. All are available exclusively through us, because only then can we create the enduring partnerships that deliver the quality our clients have come to expect.
Whether we’re helping you choose your perfect villa, planning the details of your holiday or supporting you whilst your away, we make it our business to know what’s what, who’s who, and how things work.
Going the extra mile
We’re driven by the desire to deliver exceptional experiences, to exceed expectations. We’re proactive and we understand that little things can mean a great deal. Our clients know that we’re with them all the way.
And what do your guests value most?
All of the above!
How hard was it to stay true to those values starting out. When getting heads on beds for owner clients was all important?
We didn’t find it too hard, as we only work with owners who understand and share our values. We do not compromise on any of them.
What is your differentiator proposition in the market?
Exclusive villas, local knowledge and personal service. Many companies promise similar, but nobody delivers like us.
From the Think Exquisite selection, Madreterra, Lefkada Island
You started out with a single brand strategy for each destination, before creating the umbrella brand, The Thinking Traveller. How difficult was it to do this and launch into other regions?
The company has always been called The Thinking Traveller. But we first came to market with the brand Think Sicily, then added Think Puglia and Think Ionian Islands, all delivered by “ The Thinking Traveller”. We dropped the Think brands completely in 2016 when we added the Sporades Islands, as managing all those different brands was becoming too complicated.
Adding new regions is easy for us from a branding perspective. The challenge is always operational, ensuring that when we add a new destination, we don’t just maintain our high quality levels, but raise the bar further.
What perspective on travel do your guests have?
They want to experience something truly authentic, and at the same time be confident that they are in safe and expert hands for all their needs, both known and unexpected.
Do you think being a brand has helped you secure better properties?
It definitely has. Ours is the “go to” brand for the villas in our destinations. The vast majority of villa owners know that we work better at all levels than our competitors, so they come to us first. Only if we don’t have a place for them in our collection will they then approach other companies.
How do you go above and beyond to create a positive experience for guests? What touches do you add to make their stay memorable?
Always with exclusive villas, local knowledge and personal service that no other company is able to deliver. The luxury for our clients is in the detail of the service. We take time to understand exactly what they expect, want and need and make the recommendations we think will make them happiest.
The quality of the villas and experiences is a given. On the rare occasions when something does not go exactly as we intended, we pride ourselves in our thoughtful and timely reactions, and our ability to put things right.
And on the subject of guest loyalty. Are your guests loyal to the brand or the property? Or both!
In most cases they are loyal to the brand above all and will explore different properties knowing that the quality of the property and the service will always deliver for them. In some cases clients return to the same property time after time, but they are still loyal to the brand.
Ultimately the goal of any holiday rental company is to become independent from the listings platforms. As an established brand, do you use them?
We have never used listings platforms.
Do you use influencer marketing? How integral is it to your overall brand marketing strategy?
We have been using more influencer marketing in recent years. It is certainly becoming a core element of our marketing strategy.
Words, images or video? Website, social or video marketing? What’s creating the ‘chatter’ around the brand right now?
All of these influence brand recognition and loyalty, but the best chatter is always that of clients coming back from holiday and telling their friends what a great time they have had and recommending others to travel with us.
And of course the continued recognition at Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Choice Awards is also fantastic! To be voted the World’s Top villa rental company for the past three years in a row has been a huge affirmation of the quality of our service and a massive encouragement for our hard working team and all the other people who work so hard for our clients’ happiness.
What would be your one recommendation to a company who wanted to make the leap from a business reliant on listings sites, to becoming a brand that guests search for?
Make sure that your proposition is truly unique, and never compromise on your values.
Thanks to Rossella for sharing her inspirational brand story!
I’ll be speaking about branding for the short-term rental market at the More Bookings Direct conference in London, February 25th. Further information and to book your ticket.
Or if you want to talk to me about creating a brand to resonate with your ideal guests, contact me for a no-obligation Skype chat.