Concierge and membership company Ten Group is in expansion mode as it looks for more lifestyle managers to service its global network of customers.
Ten provides travel and concierge services for the highest-level customers of banks such as Coutts, NatWest Private Banking and HSBC Jade, as well as individual private members, and already has more than 850 staff worldwide.
“Our revenues fell during Covid, but only by 28% and we managed to stay profitable, didn’t take in any debt or sell any shares,” said founder and chief executive Alex Cheatle. “For some agencies, service is a means to an end, but for us, it is the end. We don’t rely on commission on what we sell – that’s under 10% of our revenues; we get paid subscriptions no matter what we’re arranging. Clients may not have been travelling so much, but we have still helped them in a number of other ways.”
This has included arranging virtual events with favourite performing artists, getting members into the best restaurants in London when they reopened, helping clients develop their garden spaces, running book clubs with key authors and organising staycations.
Team members Ten is looking for are experienced luxury travel planners, sports experts, those with a grasp of live music and entertainment and dining experts and “passionate foodies”.
“We want to become a magnet for talent and with the homeworking set-up now as well, we can look to recruit more outside London,” Cheatle said. “We want to attract people who really know their stuff, are passionate about it and can help our members experience it.”
He said around 20% of what Ten’s team do for clients is restaurant-based. “We secure the right tables at the best places. Member spend is often double that of other diners, so restaurants are keen to work with us. And with Covid restrictions, many top restaurants might now have even less tables – some have even gone out of business – so demand is high, with less options.”
He predicted London could actually have a good summer overall, once more people started to realise international travel was going to remain limited and that most of the popular UK destinations were fully booked.
“Our clients can’t get to their holiday homes for example, and a lot of the UK will be booked up, so London will start to feel like an attractive option, as people can take advantage of availability at theatres, good rates at top hotels and less crowds,” he suggested.
When it comes to those occasional trips that are able to be arranged overseas, he added more members were also now coming back to Ten to book.
“Even those who might have booked some travel outside of what we offer have come back to us, as they’ve had their fingers burned trying to get refunds or rearrange things even two, three times now, and they just don’t want the stress – especially if it’s a big group trip they might have been a lead booker on,” he said. “I think this is part of a wider move across travel towards intermediaries.”
In the long run, he said he also sees destination choice as revolving around countries with better healthcare systems. “Older clients in particular are nervous,” he said. “We’ve seen a big rise in cruise enquiries, I think because people feel they will be well supported when they’re travelling.”
He added the traditional “peaks” model was probably also going to be eroded. “It never really worked anyway, with staff so stretched in those two months – a booking landscape that’s more spread out would surely be better. There’s kind of a dual system now anyway: immediate departures as things change, and long-term planning to secure key periods.”