Big Interview: Cooper charts new course having become a holiday pirate

Big Interview: Cooper charts new course having become a holiday pirate

The new UK head of market at Holiday Pirates spoke to Lee Hayhurst about diversifying the firm’s product and channels as he started in his new role

The new UK head of market at Holiday Pirates spoke to Lee Hayhurst about diversifying the firm’s product and channels as he started in his new role

New UK head of market at travel deals specialist Holiday Pirates says he will target diversifying the firm’s product offering and routes to market as he looks to further establish the brand.

Nick Cooper joined the Berlin-based firm after spending nine years at rival Travelzoo working his way up through the ranks to head of sales, a position he held for four years.

Having started at Holiday Pirates on January 2, Cooper is still getting his feet under the table at his new employer but says it’s a company whose progress he has been tracking.

“I have been keeping an eye on Holiday Pirates for a couple of years and seen them grow quite significantly by doing things similarish to Travelzoo but in a different way.

“They have obviously had a massive impact on Facebook but are also experimenting with other distribution channels.

“I really like that they have targeted a new audience of millennials, getting information across to them by new channels. That fits with what the future of travel is and I wanted to be part of it.”

Both Travelzoo and Holiday Pirates employ teams of ‘editorial’ deals finders to support their promise of independence and to build a trustworthiness in the brand.

The key difference is Travelzoo established its model around email marketing and specifically its weekly top 20 deals send out.

Of course, both firms also work closely with commercial partners who pay the brands to plug their deals exploiting the extensive reach and reputation they have built with consumers.

But the standing of both relies on the deals they promote being the very best in the market, and Cooper said one of his key roles in his new job will be to impress this on trade partners.

“At the moment our audience is predominantly millennials, that’s why we need the best deals and most price sensitive in the market.

“One of the reasons we have been successful with millennials is they trust us because we can find sneaky deals for them which they may struggle to find themselves.

“But we have been going for seven years and people have grown up with Holiday Pirates and their circumstances have changed as well.

“So, I want to start differentiating the content, look at places like India, Southeast Asia and Africa and start to introduce those into the holiday mix.

“Millennials are getting more affluent and this also fits with the Instagram generation who are looking for Instagrammable places to go.”

As well as diversifying the product mix, Cooper is also conscious that while Holiday Pirates has seen great success building a brand on Facebook it needs a spread of channels.

Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger are all being actively targeted although Cooper believes Facebook, despite claims it is being abandoned by the young, remains powerful.

“Facebook is still relevant,” he says. “They have had their fare share of bad PR over the last year or so but it’s still a massive channel for us.

“The Facebook demographic does tend to be older than, say, Instagram, but also there’s a difference in how people behave on Facebook.

“The older generation are more likely to do things like comment on pictures, they use it maybe more as it was intended as a social channel.

“But the younger generations are still using it, but more as a research tool and they are used to seeing companies showing up in their news feeds.

“It will still be relevant but what’s more important is Holiday Pirates is not too reliant on one source. It’s like Google PPC. Google changes the algorithm and it has a massive impact on companies.”

Cooper has seen first hand how having too many of your lead generation eggs in one basket is a risky business in travel.

Prior to Travelzoo, he worked for that grandaddy of lead generation travel brands, Teletext Holidays, which left many former partners’ business in jeopardy when it cut the number of advertisers.

That was in a different era and Cooper said today’s much more complex market means travel brands are forced to spread their content and risk around a mix of channels.

“No one will be able to have such a dominant position as Teletext had today,” he says. “In the late 90s, early 2000s, the only way to find a holiday was newspapers, high street or on TV on Teletext.

“Today, we live in a much more fragmented environment in terms of travel distribution. Everyone’s competing to find as may people as possible in their area of the market.

“Nothing’s going to be as dominant as Teletext, but our aim is to make it as big and as relevant to the audience as possible.”

Having watched the rise of Holiday Pirates from afar, Cooper, who was speaking to Travolution from the firm’s Berlin HQ, said he had been surprised by how successfully the firm has scaled.

The UK office, based in shared workspace in Camden Market, is still only two years old and currently has only three employees based there.

That will soon rise to five when Cooper has recruited a chief editor and a social media manager. The UK market has a further six staff dedicated to it in Germany where the firm has 200 employees.

“I honestly did not realise until I came over that Holiday Pirates is such a big, scaled-up operation. The scale is really impressive.

“But even when the company and the UK office becomes a lot larger I think it will still be run like a start-up because they have a start-up culture, it’s the way they think, the way they operate.”

Cooper added: “I have been keen to impress on my team that just because I’m from Travelzoo does not mean everything we did at Travelzoo will work at Holiday Pirates.

“It’s a completely different business. I want to spend the next month or two learning and absorbing from all the different teams and departments here.”