Independent traveller website to recruit by invitation

A new ‘invitation only’ travel website Secret Earth is aiming for 75,000 users in its first year.

Secret Earth is launching as a membership club for independent travellers.

Secret Earth is positioned as a one-stop shop for researching, planning and booking independent holidays worldwide.

The team behind the privately owned site includes CEO and co-founder Matthew Roach, who has a financial and marketing background, including time with Qantas Holidays, and former Silverjet, bmi and Abercrombie & Kent marketer Katherine Gershon as a non-executive director.

Secret Earth’s ‘invitation only’ viral membership strategy will see more 5,000 founding members of the site encouraged to invite friends and family to become members to create “pent up” demand and interest. For those who don’t have links to any members there is the ability to request a membership through the waiting list

The site’s content is initially aimed at the UK market, with lots of European short break ideas. Americas and then Asia content will be expanded as Secret Earth rolls out into those markets.

Bespoke tools include a Recommender function and a ‘Tripbox’ that helps members to collect their travel ideas to create customised digital guides to take with them on holiday and to plan an itinerary using a unique ‘drag and drop’ calendar.

The site does not offer its own booking facility but instead offers recommendations via an in-site price aggregator that compares the lowest prices from online travel agents including Expedia and and links to their sites.

Secret Earth’s revenues will come from affiliate commissions through a number of partnership agreements, for example with Viator for online activities & tours and online travel agents in the price comparison tools.

Recommended travel suppliers can upgrade their listing on Secret Earth for a small annual fee to include special offers and a company profile page.

Roach says: “We found there was no middle ground for independent travellers like us between going to a specialist tour operator, or going it alone and sifting through literally hundreds of websites giving tips and advice and other sites specialising in booking elements of the trip.”

Secret Earth’s team also includes former Time Out editorial director James Alexander.

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