Jochen Schweizer

An Adrenaline Junkie's Latest Challenge

jochen schweizer
Adventure travel company Jochen Schweizer is learning the ropes when it comes to expanding its business reach.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The leisure market is attractive and expanding. The amount of money Germans spent for recreation, entertainment and culture increased last year from €142 billion to €146 billion.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • In 1985, Jochen Schweizer founded the event and advertising agency Kajak Sports Productions, which became the foundation of the Jochen Schweizer Group.
    • He began to sell travel experiences onlilne in 2004, and is now the market leader in the business.
    • In 2015, he offered 1,900 different travel experience packages, had 500 employees and generated sales of about €85 million ($96.4 million).
  • Audio

    Audio

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German entrepreneur Jochen Schweizer, a former stuntman and record-setting bungee-jumper, has never shied away from risk. His latest such endeavor aims to aid his adventure tourism company’s expansion plans: His namesake company has acquired a stake in information-technology specialist Regiondo.

The a 25-percent stake will help smooth the online booking process, said Mr. Schweizer, who did not name a price for the acquisition.

“In five years, we’re aiming for €500 million in [annual] sales,” Mr. Schweizer said of his company, which offers for travel, event and experience packages, with activities ranging from helicopter rides to bungee jumps.

The firm posted sales of €85 million in 2015. In the medium to long run, €1 billion ($1.13 billion) is a realistic target, he said.

“In the long run, we’re making more money if customers actually redeem their vouchers and buy again with us.”

Jochen Schweizer, Founder, Jochen Schweizer Group

With his willingness to take a controlled risk, Mr. Schweizer has made his company into Germany’s largest provider of experience and adventure travel.

But currently, many customers never redeem the vouchers they buy from the Munich-based Jochen Schweizer firm because the booking process is too complicated. To remedy the problem, a new booking system will allow buyers to schedule the event right away when they buy it online.

“In the long run, we’re making more money if customers actually redeem their vouchers and buy again with us,” Mr. Schweizer said.

Last year, sales increased in the double digit percentage range to around €85 million ($96.4 million). In a society that materially has almost everything, the longing for out-of-the-ordinary experiences is apparently growing.

“Man isn’t what he has, but what he experiences,” said Mr. Schweizer, whose office decor features a parachute, kayak paddle and Ducati motorbike, a testimony to his passion for high speeds.

“Most fears can’t be rationally justified,” said Mr. Schweizer, who was a stuntman for 20 years. But, he added, a person also has to respect the laws of physics – and, in companies, those of the market. “I’ve never yet jumped without knowing where I was going to land,” he said.

Jochen Schweizer GmbH wants to grow rapidly. Mr. Schweizer is banking on two things to make it happen: Digitalization and the new mainstay, project development. This includes the construction of Volt, a €100-million shopping center in Berlin that will include a hotel and adventure attractions like a surfing wave pool and rides on an air cushion.

Rapidly-growing online ticket service Regiondo will play a crucial role in the expansion. According to Handelsblatt research, Jochen Schweizer is taking over 25 percent of the shares in a first step. With the help of Regiondo software, Mr. Schweizer’s Munich-based group plans to expedite and dominate the digitalization of the recreation industry.

It’s an attractive market. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, German spending  for recreation, entertainment and culture increased from €142 billion to €146 billion last year. That means about 9 percent of consumer spending flowed into leisure and culture.

Alexander Will, managing director of the industry giant Meventi, estimates the potential for the market of adventure travel at half a billion euros.

But Mr. Schweizer said the industry is lacking in digitalization. Electronic systems for the management of offers and bookings has long been the standard with hotels and airlines, he noted, while many experience providers are still selling vouchers for things like skydiving and supplying customers with a list of providers that they have to tediously call individually to make an appointment.

And because many people don’t end up redeeming the vouchers, some companies build their business models around that fact. This is a mistake because customers are lost this way, Mr. Schweizer said.

He now wants to offer the Regiondo Pro software he is already using in his own companies to the more than 3,000 experience providers whose programs he brokers.

The software can be used to gather and record all customer data and dates – whoever wants to go skydiving immediately learns when and where a jump is available and can book it straight away. Mr. Schweizer will then, for example, also be able to immediately offer the customer a weekend trip to the event’s location.

Recently, the group also begann selling trips in conjunction with adventures through its subsidiary Hip Trips.

“That will substantially change the leisure market,” Mr. Schweizer said of the industry’s digitalization.

He was Germany’s first entrepreneur to make a business of spine-tingling thrills. He joined an extreme kayaking club at the age of 17, and later filmed stunts for skier-turned-filmmaker Willy Bogner. In 1990, Mr. Schweizer opened the first bungee jumping facility in Germany.

About 10 years ago, he started an online website through which he marketed adventure experiences. His company group now offers much more, from merchandising, snowshoe tours and race-car rides to weekend trips with extraordinary experiences as the highlight.

One of the largest voucher competitors is Mydays, which started in 2003 and has a strong advertising partner in its owner, the German mass media company, ProSiebenSat.1. The company sees itself as “Germany’s number one in experience gifts” and recently also reported a double-digit percentage rate of growth.

In addition, smaller providers have positioned themselves in adventure sector niches. Munich start-up Miomente, for example, specializes in events and courses revolving around culinary pleasures.

“It’s quite clear that the trend is steadily moving away from adrenaline events to experiences in the culinary arts,” said Miomente’s founder, Sabine Engel.

With the beginning of spring, she said, barbeque events and food market tours are in demand. Also particularly popular at Miomente are the so-called “hotspot hoppings” that include meals with several courses, with each course served in a different restaurant.

In addition, Miomente organizes company events, an area where Mr. Schweizer also has his own subsidiary. Moreover, he operates, among other things, 43 shops of his own in Germany and Austria.

He is also building an experience arena in Taufkirchen near Munich, with its own food services, climbing wall and wave machine.

Mr. Schweizer is convinced that the project will pay off financially, but it has another advantage. He says his big dream is to ride one of the really big waves off the coast of Hawaii. He isn’t yet good enough to tackle it but will soon be able to stop at the arena on the way to work every morning and surf for half an hour.

 

Axel Höpner is the head of Handelsblatt’s Munich office, focusing in particular on Allianz and Siemens. To contact the author: hoepner@handelsblatt.com

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