We can discuss the hours of his Provence Rugby club with the founder, main shareholder and president of Voyage Privé, Denis philipon. But no question of evoking the activity of his company. “Sorry, I’m really not talking,” systematically lets loose the low cost luxury pope to media inquiries. “Exposing yourself is against its nature. He is a thoughtful, structured boy, a good speaker but he does not like the noise made by the press, ”testifies one of his relatives. A paradox for the manager of one of the most well-known online travel agencies among the general public and among the most lucrative with its turnover close to one billion euros.
Launched in Aix-en-Provence in May 2006, the site offers a selection of stays in France and around the world at negotiated prices for its members, all recruited by sponsorship. As soon as it went online, the offer was attractive: in the first year of its launch, the site recorded 9 million euros in sales. Its success is such that two years after its creation, when many start-ups are still vegetating in incubators, the company settles in Spain, then in Italy and Great Britain the following year. In 2011, she crossed the Atlantic: heading for the United States (since abandoned) and Brazil, without ever having to raise funds.
Since then, the one who was president of Lastminute until 2004 has also made a commitment to eastern countries, with the opening of an office in Poland in 2013, and acquired the company Splendia in 2016, one of the leaders booking luxury hotels and villas based in Barcelona. Voyage Privé then displays a community of 7 million members. “We are interested in its database, which will allow our customers to book in 3,500 luxury hotels and villas outside of private sales,” then contented himself with explaining Denis Philipon in a terse press release that marked his break with the media.
It is now radio silence. Despite its size, 450 employees, the company does not have a press service. Its communication is managed by the director of human resources, “a phantom”, testifies a journalist of the professional travel press. His boss has carefully organized his withdrawal from public life: he does not publish any of the legally mandatory balance sheets, and has had his image reshaped on social networks by an agency specializing in e-reputation. “It’s meticulous work that meets the requirements of a personality of this stature: we have a tailor-made genealogy, a watered-down CV, a Wikipedia portrait without roughness, benevolent blogs and the social touch you need”, testifies a professional in the sector who analyzed their online presence.
Sole master on board
Why so much discretion? “He doesn’t need the media to grow his business. He is the master on board. Its profitability is sufficient for its growth without it being necessary to organize a communication campaign to shine with investors, ”explains a banker. One of his competitors has another explanation related to the copy and paste of the Private Sale model: “Voyage Privé is a successful ‘imitator’. But there is in his boss like a syndrome of usurpation which extinguishes his voice. On subjects other than his business, Denis Philipon is not totally voiceless. At the beginning of May, he opened to the Secretary of State in charge of the Digital Transition, Cédric O, the sports and business campus that he will inaugurate in the fall.
Over 15,000 m2, this Aix site is to host the new international headquarters of the company, but also a start-up incubator, its rugby team which has been evolving for three years in the second division, and its School of XV which supports young college students from neighborhoods in difficulty hanging up through sports values. In six years, 370 children have benefited from academic support coupled with learning to manly plating. “We are also preparing a music school for future generations of artists and the organization of a major pop rock festival in 2022,” he told journalists during the official visit.
Promised: the inauguration of this campus will be an opportunity to reconnect with communication. The company has a lot to be forgiven on the networks to regain its growth, while it lost 80% of its turnover in 2020 due to the health crisis. Contrary to personal reputation, bad customer reviews, which are increasingly numerous for Voyage Privé, are difficult to clean up.
2006: Denis Philipon, former French president of Lastminute, joined forces with Christophe Serna, Sébastien Tricaud, Alexandre Fontaine and David Bastian to found the Voyage Privé website
2008: The company settles in Spain, then in Italy and Great Britain the following year
2010: The site achieves 200 million euros in turnover with 6.5 million active members worldwide. It employs 150 employees
2016: The group acquires Splenda, leader in the reservation of luxury hotels and villas
2021: Voyage Privé inaugurates a campus housing its headquarters, a school, the training center of its rugby club and an incubator