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Grant Thatcher: 'We love to tuck a few little stingers in here and there'
The publisher of the world's smallest (and snappiest) travel guides talks about living "la vida luxe"
For the past 10 years, the world’s globetrotters have trotted hither, thither and yon with a compact, savvy and at times hilariously bitchy companion in the shape of the Hong Kong-based LUXE City Guides.
With no illustrations or maps and just 24 concertina’d pages small enough to tuck behind an iPad, LUXE propels travelers toward the world’s acupuncture points, spotlighting the hippest shops, restaurants, hotels and the like in happening destinations such as New York, London, Tokyo and Sydney. Printed guides (US$9.99) are now complemented by mobile apps (US$5.99) that come with 12-months’ free updates.
A decade on from launching the first guide (Bangkok), onetime gas station attendant, former thespian and current LUXE Publishing Editor Grant Thatcher (49) traces the long and winding road from zero to 33 destinations and 1.25 million copies sold; though, as he is keen to point out, “that pales into insignificance in comparison to Ms. E. L. James' meaty tomes.”
More on CNN: Grant Thatcher: Breaking the mold
CNNGo: You've said that selling LUXE at first was like trying to stuff Simon Cowell through the eye of a needle; has it got easier over the years?
Grant Thatcher: Well, I guess I no longer pound the streets, trying to persuade bookstore managers to stock LUXE like I did in the early days.
The Internet has of course changed business and retail in a profound way, and there are many more ways to market now which is a great, although sometimes a mixed blessing. Social media is a very hungry baby.
One of the largest growth areas for LUXE City Guides is our custom and bespoke sales, we're lucky enough to have worked with many of the world's most desirable brands from Fendi to Veuve Clicquot, Harrods and Sotheby’s, as well as private wealth management specialists and banks creating unique, special editions of our guides.
It's an area we love to work in as it gives us maximum flexibility to tailor our opinion and style to each client.
CNNGo: Snarky comments are one of your USPs, especially the 'LUXE Loathes' section. Any particular favorites?
Thatcher: Space allowing, we love to tuck a few little stingers in here and there. I'm rather fond of LUXE Beijing's cautionary comment 'Avoid the use of public toilets like you would an evening with Steven Seagal.'
On a separate tangent, I note with relish that apparently the authorities have just announced that from now on no more than two flies will be allowed in any public Beijing toilet at any one time.
One marvels at how this will be policed. Will we see flies being put under arrest and frog-marched out of lavatories willy-nilly?
More on CNN: 'Mr. Toilet': Beijing needs 'No Fly Zone'
CNNGo: It's better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Agree, or not?
Thatcher: If one is looking at this as a metaphor of life and death then it’s infinitely better to travel hopefully and hope you don't arrive at all.
But if one is lucky enough to be going to the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai, Villa Feltrinelli on Lake Garda, or The Connaught in London, then I would definitely say it’s better to arrive. And the sooner the better.
CNNGo: Industry estimates put your printing costs at a few cents per copy. The legendary King “Rich As” Croesus must be green with envy now.
Thatcher: Wouldn't it be marvelous if this was so, but with 15 staff and 33 resident editors, I don't think Croesus need worry for the immediate future.
CNNGo: Would you elaborate a little on future projects?
Thatcher: LUXE Kuala Lumpur is our next custom guide for a private client, but it won't appear in the retail market until next autumn. The success of our new series of family guides Little LUXE ('How to go glam with the fam') for Bali, Singapore and Hong Kong, has meant we will most likely be expanding into Europe.
And I'm off to India soon for a scout about, we came very close to launching LUXE Delhi & Rajasthan and LUXE Mumbai back in 2008, but [due to the terroist attacks] these were shelved.
Such a shame, as we had the full drafts up together and the most beautiful covers ready to print ... watch this space.