There’s an urgent feel at Luxe City Guides with its new owners led by CEO Simon Westcott set to revamp the Hong Kong based publisher that broke the rules 11 years ago by launching the first of its pocket-sized, wittily-worded fold out guides.
“The evil genius of Luxe guides is no pictures, no map,” Mr Westcott says.
There are now 36 titles, 1.5 million copies sold, and 21 apps, so there’s a lot to do and very little time. Mr Westcott, a former Global Publisher at Lonely Planet, and his partners are out to make their investment in the dying world of print publishing pay.
To do this they are going old-school with some modern twists. The basic strategy is straight from the newspaper success manual 101, producing more content more frequently while delivering it faster for a fee. Hold the front page!
Luxe will also stretching the brand into transaction-based concierge and travel services; stuff that earns them money. There’s a strong chance that one day it will sell accommodation, probably sourced from the affiliated website Mr & Mrs Smith, of which Mr Smith is Chairman, Asia Pacific.
But first things first – the immediate priority is launching a new website and content management system, hopefully by the end of July. The CMS will also power fresh apps pumping out subscriber updates every two months rather than every two years.
“Right now our apps are now basically e-books. We’re starting again completely, moving into a more frequent content update cycle.”
Subscriber product will also be developed
“We believe that the reach and reputation of Luxe, both of which are very strong, will be enhanced by more current content. So we are investing in frequency of content.”
As for the business model, “at the moment it’s essentially old school print media but we’re updating that and also doing some custom publishing for luxury brands such as Ferragamo and Veuve Cliquot.
“We’re also supplying content for the new PenCities section of the new Peninsula Hotel site.
“In the future the paid content model will diversify and we’ll add a subscriber product with a subscription fee or micro-payments.”
He says Luxe may also look to sell content to luxury travel agents, while a concierge service also possible, and business opportunities in China are very much part of the strategic plan.
“We’ll be active there fairly quickly.”
But whatever happens, it’s words that will differentiate Luxe in the long term.
“Our editorial independence is absolutely sacrosanct,” he says.
“We have resident editors, specialists, living the Luxe life.” He describes the end guide as a reduction, distilled to the very best.
“The evil genius of Luxe guides is no pictures, no map.
“We don’t want to tinker with the print format but will introduce pictures and digital maps online.”
One thing is for sure: Luxe will remain nimble.
That’s the big lesson took away from seven years at Lonely Planet, then owned by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The world’s best-known travel guide book publisher has struggled for the past decade and is now owned by a reclusive rich American.
He said the BBC’s strategic approach suffered from bureaucracy and over-engineering.
“They were also very nervous about the confluence of services and editorial.”
The lesson learned? Small, fast and agile beats big every time.
“And if you can find a service proposition that matches your brand, go for it.”