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A Q&A with Amir Azulay, CEO of Chic Retreats

Currently live on the GrowthFunders platform with their EIS-eligible investment opportunity, I recently spoke with Amir Azulay, CEO of Chic Retreats, to explore further who Chic Retreats are, what they do and where they're headed.

Jordan Dargue (JD): what does Chic Retreats do?

Amir Azulay (AA): We provide an affordable solution for small independent boutique hotels, helping them attract the right guests to their wonderful hotels. By doing so, we generate revenues from both annual service fees for use of the platform and through commission on bookings generated through the platform.

JD: What's your background and what makes you interested in this sector?

AA: My background is technology and corporate finance but I've always loved travelling, discovering new places and understanding how the locals live. After visiting hundreds of small boutique hotels and talking to their owners, I understood that there is an opportunity to provide a technology platform that will allow them to better compete online, while sharing their unique stories.

JD: Who are the founders of the company and what are their backgrounds?

AA: Lulu Townsend founded the brand as a result of her family owning the first boutique hotel in Umbria. With the skillset she developed there, Lulu was asked to represent many other lovely independent hotels throughout Italy.

Chic Retreats started as a lifestyle guide book of hotels in Italy. We have evolved this brand to a fully fledged ecommerce business offering sophisticated digital services to hoteliers and guests alike.

JD: Why is Chic Retreats a good solution?

AA: We answer a real need for the small independent boutique hotelier, who is under-served by mass market Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and other solution providers, and is facing strong competition from bigger brands and apartment sharing websites vying for the same guest.

Small independent boutique hotels is the fastest growing segment in the market, yet no one aggregates or services it properly - and by doing just this we will create a very exciting and profitable business.

JD: What are the company's key objectives going forward?

AA: We want to be the go to place for small independent boutique hoteliers online. Once we streamline our processes and functionality we aim to significantly grow the number of directly contracted hotels to 5,000 and aim to generate four bookings per hotel, per month. This will generate a forecasted monthly cashflow of almost £2m.

In doing so we aim to be known as the champion of small independent boutique hotels.

JD: What is Chic Retreats' biggest achievement to date?

AA:

  • Hiring a phenomenal team
  • We have developed a strong online brand that many hotels want to be a part of
  • We have now developed the capability to connect hundreds of thousands of hotels directly to our platform
  • We have engaged and contracted over 300 hotels in Y1. Our rate of contracting is doubling every couple of months.
  • We have grown our bookings by 300% through March 2018, and April 2018 is trending at 40% higher than March 2018.
  • The underlying platform is in place - it is about scale now

JD: What will the investment capital be used for and why?

AA:

  • Continuously develop the functionality and technology of Chic Retreats, all based on an analysis of the data
  • Scale more quickly to more hotels and achieve more bookings from guests
  • Enhancements in 'matching' capabilities to match guests with the most suitable small independent boutique hotels using the latest data and software
  • Key hires that will augment the existing team

JD: What are the company’s plans for future rounds? Will there be any opportunity to follow on in the future?

AA: Yes. There is a big opportunity to become THE place for small independent boutique hotels to promote themselves online.

We will continue to evolve a unique set of services for hoteliers. It's a very dynamic industry and the boutique hotel sector is growing fast so we see opportunity to evolve with the market into a bigger player.

JD: What has the previous investment been used for?

AA:

  • To design, develop and operate a scalable 'small independent boutique hotel' marketplace online
  • Create a full ecommerce engine that is constantly analysed and improved
  • Show-piece the owner stories and quality content we generate to our online audience

JD: How have the institutional investors to date enhanced the business?

They have kept us focused on the main goals at hand and have given us a platform to be responsible and accountable for our activity.

Chic Retreats are currently raising £1.5 million in exchange for 20% equity on the GrowthFunders platform. You can view the full investment opportunity here or access the Investment Memorandum document here.

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