Luxury Travel Online Members’ Club, Secret Escapes, Raises £8 Million Led By Index Ventures; Plans For U.S. Launch

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Secret Escapes, an online ‘flash sales’ free-to-join members club for luxury holidays and hotel rooms, has raised a new funding round totaling £8 million ($12.8m) to bolster its position in the U.K. market and support international launches in the U.S., Germany and the Nordic countries. The round was led by new investor Index Ventures, with existing investors Octopus Ventures and Atlas Venture also participating.

The startup, which launched in January 2011, has been growing at a serious clip this year — adding 1.3 million members, following a TV ad campaign, and seeing a 1,400 percent increase in revenue in the year leading up to August 2012 and a compound monthly increase of 24 percent in revenue since January 2012. It now has more than 2 million members, and more than 1,000 hotels and suppliers on its books (Secret Escapes previously told TechCrunch it planned a marketing spend of circa £5m in 2012).

The startup does not offer discount vouchers but allows members to book flash sales on holidays and hotel rooms via a booking engine on its website — including UK country house hotels and cities; luxury European and long-haul breaks; and flight inclusive packages. It plans to introduce “a number” of new brand offerings in the coming year, including last minute travel discount deals — under a new Secret Escapes Impulse brand.

Commenting on the growth of the business, Alex Saint, CEO of Secret Escapes, noted in a statement: “The mindset of travellers seeking luxury has changed and everyone is looking for a quality deal that represents good value whatever they are buying. We guarantee the best available rates anywhere online and this is why business is so good. Not only have we delivered for our members, we’re also now seen as a valuable tool for hotel revenue managers as part of their long term strategy to increase occupancy rates in their hotels and resorts.”

“The funding will offer us the extra leverage to develop the brand,extend the range and choice of travel offers so that we can give our customers even better value and expand aggressively in the UK. It will also provide the capital we need to fuel our international expansion. We have ambitious plans and aim to double our membership to over four million by the end of 2013 with an even bigger anticipated increase in revenues,” Saint added.

Ben Holmes, partner at Index Ventures who will join the Secret Escapes board added in a statement: “The Secret Escapes team has shown remarkable flair in creating a set of travel offers which really resonate with customers. The company has also exhibited high repeat usage and customer satisfaction metrics which we see as the hallmarks of a great online business.”