SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico — Nearly three years after Pleasant Holidays lured Kim Daley from Abercrombie & Kent to overhaul its luxury sister company, Hawaii World, the company, renamed Journese, barely resembles its old self.
“No one is going to go to Mexico or Tahiti with a company called Hawaii World,” said Daley, vice president and managing director of Journese, who last year oversaw the rebranding of Hawaii World to Journese as part of a strategy to aggressively expand the brand beyond its Hawaii legacy.
After Pleasant purchased Hawaii World in 2003, the company “realized they had bought this luxury brand and [the two companies] had become more similar than different,” said Daley, adding that she was brought on to do whatever it took to grow the Journese business, including divorcing its strategy from that of Pleasant Holidays.
And since then, she has been systematically evolving Journese away from Pleasant’s business model, with a focus on high-touch service and upscale product developed through strong supplier partnerships.
Last week, Journese hosted its first agent appreciation event outside of the Hawaiian Islands in the 36 years the company has been in business.
The event, which brought together the company’s 25 top-producing agents at the One&Only Palmilla, was a testament to the calculated shift the brand is making to sell a wider variety of luxury products to a larger pool of clients.
Today Hawaii makes up 58% of the destination mix, down from 86% in 2010.
Meanwhile, Mexico has grown from 7% to 11% of the company’s business, with other destinations like Tahiti, Fiji, Central America and Europe filling out the rest. In all, Journese is now in 17 countries on four continents.
It is also bullish on expanding its source markets beyond its traditional California base. In 2010, 96% of sales came from California, a number that dropped to 75% in 2013, as Journese worked overtime to expand brand recognition and agent loyalty beyond the West Coast.
Asked at the Journese event last week to describe the gap in the market that Journese is hoping to fill, Daley said, “The FIT version of A&K is what I thought wasn’t out there.”
As an upscale packager, Journese has a different model than high-volume wholesalers and packagers that focus on dynamic pricing as they race to compete with online travel agencies, and an entirely different approach than the small group and set departure model of escorted tours. It is in a space occupied mainly by smaller, niche operators and travel agents who package their own product.
The value Journese is hoping to bring to agents is vetting supplier partners and using that to help agents deliver the high level of service luxury clients demand.
During a presentation to the company’s top producers, Daley emphasized the opportunities presented by the luxury market. Citing 2013 data by research firm MMGY Global, she noted that the affluent demographic spends an average of $17,000 on travel annually. And average trip spend is 24% higher when they book through an agent.
In an effort to help agents efficiently capitalize on that market, Journese is investing $1 million to update its website and booking technology next year.
Going forward, Journese is looking to sell more villa and luxury residence product as well as more destinations, particularly in Asia. Ultimately, Daley wants to evolve the company into a total luxury lifestyle brand, like a concierge service, that can offer discerning clients a diverse menu of products and services.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.