Growing Profits With High-Value Luxury Services

Martin Romjue
Posted on March 27, 2018
Karim Maachi's Cardel Global has the support of the BPI, which is a French investment bank owned by the government. The company belongs to the BPI Excellence Club, a private group of 2,000 companies that have registered the fastest growth in five years (photos courtesy of Cardel Global)

Karim Maachi's Cardel Global has the support of the BPI, which is a French investment bank owned by the government. The company belongs to the BPI Excellence Club, a private group of 2,000 companies that have registered the fastest growth in five years (photos courtesy of Cardel Global)

When operator Karim Maachi of Cardel Global won the Global Operator of the Year Award in 2013, the recognition proved to be a catalyst, not a capstone.

During the last four years, he has moved his Paris-based chauffeured transportation company into business ventures that show how an operation adapts to market disruptions by focusing on high-end luxury services and clients — an added value transportation network companies (TNCs) cannot provide.

Cardel’s growth is unfolding on four fronts: 1) Last November, the company formally opened The Wanderlust Agency, a dedicated and personalized travel service for corporate clients; 2) Adding meetings and events-related planning services; 3) Tripled its corporate-related revenue since 2013; 4) Announced a first-ever motorcycle chauffeured service.

The added growth complements its longtime core of corporate transportation service and global affiliate work, which together have comprised 90% of its business. “We’ve become the leader in financial road shows,” says Maachi, owner and CEO. “After 2013, we became no. 1 in France and a top player in Europe bringing clients other services to diversify the business.”

Total Turnkey Concierge
The idea for the Wanderlust Agency arose from the repeat corporate client business Cardel Global had been handling for years.

“When we started providing worldwide service at the International Monetary Fund and at the World Economic Forum in Davos we were asked to help with hotels in addition to transportation and security,” Maachi says. “Our clients and bookers wanted to centralize everything.”

During the last three years, Cardel gradually started booking hotels, flights, entertainment and meal reservations, and private jets. For many clients asking for such services, time is money, and to book everything they need and desire in one place is a prime demand.

“We started four years ago with two clients who were booking often,” Maachi says. “We realized it was a different business. We drive the people who book hotels, book tickets, and take private jets.”

Maachi began the work and investment to create Wanderlust, an accredited travel agency that now has four full-time employees. “It took me close to two years to understand more of that business, be trained, employ the right people, and sell that service,” he says. By February 2017, he opened the agency and started to sell the additional luxury services to clients, and by November he officially launched Wanderlust in the market.

“If you can control A to Z for travel clients, you control everything and you are touching other business services that provide you more revenue,” Maachi says. “When you look at profits and the margin you can do, one (private) jet can give you a higher margin than from multiple vehicles. Every limo operator should be focused on this,” Maachi adds.

All-In App
As an extension of the agency, Wanderlust offers an app for both clients and bookers. “We realize all the bookers on road show and corporate sectors were sending to their bosses separate emails but nothing was fitted to their needs. We approached 150 bookers with the app that enables them to go through us and book everything for them. You can make changes via email or live chat. Now the booker and traveler are connected.” The app enables both parties to avoid emails and paper since all information and live chat are available.

The app also offers such detailed conveniences as mobile check-in, flight status, airport lounge information, airline baggage policies, and consumer information about restaurants, clubs, and shopping.

“The impact has been huge,” Maachi says. “I was not expecting the amazing feedback. The clients were so excited to see we were diversifying our business and able to help them on flights and hotels.”

The next phase for the agency will be to provide booking services and logistics for meetings, events, and conferences. “We are working on the application to manage big groups and we can help clients on their events. It’s also another way to get transportation business — through events services.”

Global Corporate Roots
One year after winning its LCT award, Cardel Global opened operations in New York with about 20 vehicles, serving its French clients traveling to do business with banks and investment companies. “Most banks in Paris use us all over the world,” Maachi says. “We only serve French clients because it’s a very specific market.”

About 65% of Cardel Global clients include banks, investment companies, and corporations. The company also has seen growth with farm-ins from U.S. operations, since it’s one of the leading preferred affiliates for France.
About 125 U.S. chauffeured operations rely on Cardel Global which has an affiliate network with 350 locations worldwide. “Most big players are using us in Paris, and many small- and medium-fleet operators use us on a daily basis,” Maachi says.

Among its big events are the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the International Monetary Fund / World Bank Group Conference held for two consecutive years in Washington, D.C., and a third year in another country.

“Most of our investment bank clients are using us during that time, asking for cars from Paris to Davos,” Maachi says. “We are very busy with 32 cars we send to Davos and have coordinators and security on location.”

During the IMF event in Washington, D.C., in October 2017, Cardel represented major French banks and coordinated 55 vehicles for them on location. “We ran one car per two or three delegates and prepared for two months in advance,” Maachi says. This October, the event will be held in Bali, Indonesia, where Cardel plans to set up operations.

Cardel’s staff arrives two weeks before the big event so it can vet vehicles and train drivers. “The clients are definitely looking for more services than local transportation. We coordinate transportation security, meeting rooms, hotel rooms, and routes.”

To handle so much affiliate business, road shows, corporate transportation, and conference logistics, Cardel has invested in a customized advanced reservation and communication system that gives it the flexibility to coordinate with other companies and send real-time messages and notifications to clients. For example, the system can route calls directly to the cell phones of chauffeurs, thereby putting the clients in direct touch.

“The worldwide business is very challenging because clients are always changing reservations and notifications,” Maachi says. “Each time we confirm the job, clients don’t have to chase the details. It helps us to maintain and satisfy the clients and get business.”

Two Wheel Convenience
Complementing the growing menu of Cardel services, Maachi plans this quarter to launch a chauffeured motorcycle service, using three Honda Gold Wing cycles. The model offers a rear seat with a belt and a compartment for one piece of luggage. “When you have a CEO who wants to go to the airport and might be late, booking motorcycle chauffeured service makes sense.”

Such a service has never been offered by a chauffeured transportation company, and Cardel already has demand waiting from clients who approached the company about it. “In one situation, we had to book 14 motorcycles to get clients to a site on time,” Maachis says.

FASTFACTS: Cardel Global
Location: Paris, France
Service region(s): France, Switzerland
Founded: 1999
Owner: Karim Maachi
Other locations/offices: New York, Geneva
Fleet vehicles: 32 (Paris)
Fleet vehicle types/models: Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S350, S500, V Class minivan, G Wagon, Range Rover, 508 Peugeot
Main client types/groups: Corporate, banking, investment companies
Client ratio: 65% corporate; 25% affiliate; 10% private, hotels, fashion industry
Chauffeurs: 21 (Paris)
Total employees: 49
Annual revenues: N/A
Annual average growth: 10%
Affiliates: 350
Related services/companies: Wanderlust Agency
Website: www.cardel-global.com; www.wanderlust-agency.com
Contact: [email protected]

The Wanderlust Agency App
The subsidiary of Cardel Global was developed during the last two years as a made-to-measure travel agency offering exclusive concierge services. With a team of luxury hotel and travel experts, it works with a business clientele looking for custom premium services matching their personal needs.

Combine Business & Leisure: Offline travel guides with more than 1,000 destinations worldwide; attractions, restaurants, nightlife, shopping, hospitals, embassies, etc.; offline maps and directions by foot, subway, and car; background and practical information for trip destinations; trip journal can be shared on social networks; augmented reality, nearby places, postcards.

Itinerary, Guidance & Sharing: Flight details and mobile check-in; real-time flight status and alerts; confirmation email parsing; interactive airport maps; airport lounges; book airport transfer; accommodation details; offline travel documents; visa requirements, weather, airport wait times; offline destination maps and geolocation — street search; offline directions by foot, subway and car; trip sharing, location sharing,  airport directions; in-app messaging.
Risk Management: Precise location of any traveler with the real-time locator; provide real-time critical information and tips for sensitive destinations.

Related Topics: business travel, corporate travel, European operators, French operators, Karim Maachi, leisure travel, operator profiles

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Scott Solombrino

     | about 3 years ago

    Congratulations to the best company in France! Great job.

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