The Luxury Business
Bobby Gibson joined his parents’ luxury home and villa rental business, Travel Keys, in 2002 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Bobby’s parents started the company in 1991 and operated as a twosome until he came on board.
Having studied e-commerce while in college, Bobby believed he could help them grow the business, and moved back home to Denver, Colorado where he worked from his parents’ basement to prove it. When they saw how seriously he was taking the work, they handed over the reins.
Since joining, he has scaled the company to more than 30 times what it was. “It wasn’t an overnight success,” says Bobby. “It was 25 years of success.” Travel Keys now has 50 employees and revenue in the $30 to $40 million range.
Standardizing Product Offering
Travel Keys isn’t your typical travel service. Its team curates homes in the marketplace and only offers high-end villas.
“Our agents personally inspect each house,” Bobby says. “It’s fundamental to what we do. We guarantee a professional inspection so we can say ‘this is the best house.’” The company has steep expectations when it comes to vacation rentals, and so do its consumers.
“Sometimes [the agents] go and say, ‘Listen, this looked great on the Internet but you should see what is next to it. No way,’” Bobby says. Travel Keys rejects 90 percent of the homes it sees.
The average transaction with Travel Keys is $20,000. If a traveler is spending $20,000 to $100,000 on a vacation, “they don’t want any surprises,” Bobby says. And that is why the extra degree of research is necessary.
The company makes the vacation rental process easy for all parties involved. It provides a turnkey service for villa owners who do not want to participate themselves. Travelers want a great home to stay in and owners want great guests.
Travel Keys is determined to give customers the ultimate vacation experience. The company provides a 24-hour concierge service and will facilitate car rentals, private yoga instructors, personal chefs, and more.
Focusing Growth on Clientele
Theirs is a hot marketplace, and Bobby foresees continued growth. “We think there is a huge opportunity to triple in revenue,” he says. “We want to continue to find new product and gain new clients.”
Travel Keys represents 5,000 homes across 100 global destinations including the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. The company has added domestic markets such as California, Colorado, and Utah as well.
Large travel services might offer a million homes or more, but that is not what Travel Keys is looking to do. Travel Keys only wants the best. “It takes more time,” Bobby says. “We’re not just emailing people to see if we can add those villas.”
The team is focused on delivering on consumer experience rather than focusing on a financial model.
“There are still locations we think we should be in for our clients,” says Bobby. Forty percent of Travel Keys users are repeat or referral customers. Currently the team is launching Ibiza, Spain.