“I’m gonna fail. A sense of failure. I gave up my job to do it, I was haemorrhaging money and I just thought I'm gonna go for it big time. It is quite intense, isn't it?" James Hill, founder of LUXOS magazine claims failure to be his driving motivation in starting the lifestyle magazine meets travel companion that reached its 16th year in business this year.
Not long into the conversation with James Hill, I begin to get a sense that he has just the right amount of madness met with confidence to start one's own company. In all of Hill’s accounts of how LUXOS came to be, there is one common factor. He is passionate about his undying belief and vision for the brand he built, with nothing but the clothes on his back, a credit card, and the conviction that there was a huge opportunity in the luxury travel market not being met.
While working for a telecom company, he frequented 5-star hotels and began noticing that the print materials available in hotel rooms were not aligned with the Japanese businessman or luxury travellers who were reading them. “This one hotel is 300 years old, it has heritage, these people are buying luxury goods and this hotel magazine tells me to take my kids to Slide and Splash and for Tony Roma’s ribs, not Michelin star restaurants and things like that. The penny dropped one day and I could start to see the formulation of a product that should exist.”
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In combination with the booming allure of Italian culture at the time, and the unmet needs of travellers, Hill decided Italy was the place to be. But the formulation of LUXOS didn’t happen over night. Hill explains that in the beginning it was difficult trying to get advertisers like luxury fashion brands, to make room for print travel advertisements in their budget and get on board with a new publication. “The whole tourism thing really hadn’t been understood, and that they were going to be their future customers. Locals are important, but the spend per capita of a traveller is huge. The hospitality market had exploded. Hotels were popping up on all kinds of levels.”
However, after enough convincing, LUXOS landed a major luxury brand as an advertiser and the rest is history. That said, remaining successful is another hurdle in itself. After sixteen years in business, how does a company remain current? Hill explains it is the dedication to quality content and format that caters to a wide range of consumers. With the recent merging of LUXOS and handy, travellers are able to access exclusive city guides not only in LUXOS magazine, but on-the-go, with curated content on a mobile phone that is installed in hotel rooms across the globe, and in major cities. “handy is a hardware and software. It’s a device that you find within the hotel room, that essentially offers you some interesting features. Free of cost, you can take it out of your hotel. You get local and international calls unlimited and 4G, so you don't have to ask for wifi everywhere you go.”
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Furthermore, the 'handy' device is more than just a means of accessing curated content, it also provides a sense of service and security. Users can dial friends or family in neighbouring rooms, contact the reception desk, book a table at the hotel restaurant, reserve a spa treatment, and even arrange for a driver to collect you. These features create a better experience between the traveller and hoteliers, where a hotel is more than a place to sleep, it is a destination experience in itself. “Here I am sitting with you, maybe I’m from the States. I’ve got my handy on me and I feel connected to my hotel, even though I’m sitting here. I could call them and with one touch of a button, I can ask guest relations to come pick me up if I'm not feeling well, or to pick up my wife. If something happens, they can alert me. Most of the time you're at a hotel, you're out of the hotel. Knowing you're connected either way is quite interesting.”
Beneath all the convenient technology and success in securing engaging content with luxury advertisers, the bread and butter of LUXOS magazine is its ability to provide continuously updated, personal and quality recommendations to transform the travel experience, whether you are flipping through the magazine or exploring the city with handy. Hill explains that LUXOS is a persona before it is a magazine, the kind of source that you go to when you want the latest and greatest information. As Hill puts it, "it's like you go to a city where your best friend lives, but your best friend is out of town." LUXOS provides the genuine, tried-and-tested refined suggestions so you don't have to spend another minute googling for suggestions.
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As for the future, founder James Hill is passionate about his vision and where the company is going forward. With handy’s NFC technology on the horizon that allows you to control anything from your blinds to your payment, and the new acquisitions of LUXOS hotel partnerships each day, what’s his key to leading a successful company? He says it lies in his passion, “I really believe in what I'm doing, and I noticed that when you really believe in what you do, it comes through your eyes and through your aura and customers see it, and the people you’re working with see it, and they trust that.”
To learn more about the handy device, visit handy.travel.
For more interviews, visit the LUXOS People page.