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Secret Escapes: Traveling Large, Available on a Budget!


Way back when high-class traveling was not a viable option for your Average Joe globetrotter. Indulging in mile-long sandy beaches, refined spa experiences, top-notch amenities, and state-of-the-art hotel service - it all came at a salty cost many could not afford.

Inspired to end the trend of luxury traveling being only available to the wealthiest, Alex Saint and Tom Valentine - a duo of talented entrepreneurs - created a platform that gave travel fanatics the privilege to wander luxuriously and affordably!

Secret Escapes was first introduced as a revolutionary travel company that handpicks luxurious stays worldwide and offers visitors the chance to level up their experiences at fair prices!

Following a flash-deal business model, Secret Escapes sells a plethora of discounted trips abroad, including package holidays, top-class hotel accommodations, posh cruises, and tours!

Despite the obstacles on their way, here’s how two men pulled all the stops to fascinate the traveling world with a platform that gives luxurious escapades a sense of convenience!

I Dream of Becoming an Entrepreneur

This Earth is a gigantic kaleidoscope of wonders, just waiting for you to absorb everything out there. Ever since childhood, Tom Valentine and Alex Saint were eager to explore the world. Although nurturing an unripe dream of globetrotting, both recreationally and professionally, Alex Saint began his career in the sales and marketing industry and steadily grew accustomed to the digitalization era of the 2000s.

This led Alex to quickly learn the ins and outs of digital marketing and collaborate with a specter of experts in the field. The experience itself led Alex to combine his marketing skills and his love for traveling and create his first-ever and designated travel website in 2005.

DealChecker was a platform that compared travel booking prices offered by different companies, thus enabling customers to evaluate and score the best travel arrangement possible. The site offered eager travelers luxury travel arrangements but at reasonable prices and although the idea was viable, Alex struggled to get his website on a roll, mostly due to insufficient experience in eCommerce. To solve this problem, Alex invited Tom Valentine aboard.

Tom Valentine had extensive background knowledge of eCommerce as his first job was working for eBay. He constantly dreamt of joining the likes of Steve Jobs and becoming a successful entrepreneur. But, he also held a huge affinity for traveling and was eager to start his own establishment. Once Alex introduced the concept of DealChecker, Tom didn’t think twice before he joined in on the project.

Gathering enough knowledge within the travel industry as well as the entrepreneurial market, Tom and Alex worked on DealChecker until 2011, when the company was sold. Instead of leaving their careers to chance, Tom and Alex relied on their thus-far acquired experience and set sail to develop a better, stronger, and more designated travel platform that would take the world of business by a storm.

Making It Happen

For some, generating a new great business idea might take years, but for Alex and Tom, it happened as soon as DealChecker was sold. Whilst constructing the concept of their new platform, both Tom and Alex knew they wanted to combine the best of both worlds in it - business and traveling. Having sharpened their skills in both fields already, in 2011, right as DealChecker ‘left the building’, Tom and Alex launched a whole new and improved platform - Secret Escapes! The main reason the duo created Secret Escapes was that they craved to redefine the way luxury travels are perceived. Having felt annoyed at the fact that luxury traveling always came at a staggering price, Alex and Tom tried to collect data on travel spendings as well as hotel room costs. After some heavy brainstorming, the tandem discovered that as luxury hotels were usually overbooked, more affordable hotels could easily provide the same kind of refinement - at a lower price! Whilst they were set on the right track, in the beginning, Secret Escapes had its fair share of challenges. For one, Alex and Tom couldn’t make the platform as known as its competitors and also struggled to attract the right kind of clientele for their offering. However, given their superb motivation and will to succeed, both entrepreneurs kept pushing their venture forward whilst keeping their focus on the one thing that counted the most - discretionary travel available to worldwide explorers!

Success on the Horizon

Despite its troubling start, Secret Escape boomed in the first year of its launch, as did its clientele, which reached 4 million users in the UK alone. As for the globe, in 2013 Secret Escapes was launched in Germany and even overtook Germany’s JustBook, a mobile-based booking platform at the time. This step was extremely profitable for the platform as well as its inventors, as Germans trusted JustBook as a reliable local hotel booker.

The merging of the two companies brought Secret Escapes closer to the US travel market as well. However, given both JustBook and Secret Escapes run as semi- independent platforms, the form focused on promoting website-based flash sales, whereas the latter aimed to adjust to a more mobile-friendly standard, which has been one of the early challenges Alex and Tom had struggled with.

As for funding, 2015 was a remarkable year for the young entrepreneurs and their platform, as the most popular internet search engine - Google - invested in Secret Escapes as an online travel firm.

With the generous investment, the travel company was secured with $60 million. According to Tom Hulme, a member of Google Ventures, the company was excited to make this investment, since Secret Escapes provided millions of customers with the most compact, compatible, and convenient travel deals online. Having Google for backup gave the site a significant advantage because it brought high-class hotels closer to eager travelers.

The following years marked no shortage of success, as in 2017, Secret Escapes acquired Slevomat Group and became the leading Central and Eastern Europe travel player as a result.

The Face of Secret Escapes

Thanks to the speedy digitalization, Secret Escapes was able to offer bookers customized flash sales that last up to 10 days, as well as over 250 travel deals available on a weekly basis.

Moreover, the platform enables customers to get daily emails about every upcoming deal and the biggest discounts and travel packages. Some of the deals offered by Secret Escapes include free-of-charge room upgrades, spa appointments,

and complementary goods customers could enjoy such as snacks or a bottle of champagne. Today, Secret Escape has over 400 employees, millions of members across the world, and a net worth of a whopping $209.5 million, according to the latest evaluation. In 2021 alone, Secret Escapes witnessed a turnover of £75 million.

Where to Next?

When asked about the creation of their exquisite platform and the challenges they consequently faced, both Tom and Alex noted they would never do it any other way.

The introduction of their platform on the travel market was the duo’s most exhilarating venture that catapulted them to the industry top and earned them a rightful place among other similar providers. Tom and Alex’s devotion to cater to willing travelers and lovers of refined accommodation was greater than their desire to just do good at business.

With the arrival of Secret Escapes, the face and future of traveling changed for good and introduced a whole new layer of sophistication that enables site members and ravenous travelers to get a taste of luxurious traveling worldwide - at fair prices and the utmost quality!