A firm that charters cruises specifically for music fans has been named the country’s fastest-growing travel company by Inc. magazine. In an industry that has suffered under a recession and cumbersome operating costs (thanks in large part to high gas prices), Sixthman has managed a growth rate of nearly 3,000 percent over the last three years. In 2010, it earned $17 million in revenue and this year was named No. 87 to the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest growing private American companies.
The Atlanta-based firm was started as a lark in 2001 when former concert promoter Andy Levine chartered a ship for $750,000 to treat fans to a weekend on the seas with the band Sister Hazel. The experiment worked, and Sixthman has since racked up more than 30 full-ship charters in its first decade with entertainers such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and KISS and brands such as VH1 and Turner Classic Movies.
How has the company grown so fast in the last three years? Levine credits fan loyalty — the company enjoys a 60 percent return rate among previous customers. And with prices ranging from $500 to $2,000, cruise-goers have a range of travel options.
Meanwhile, the rest of the travel services industry continues to limp along. According to our First Research industry data, travel agencies and related services are anticipated to experience only medium growth in the near future. Effective marketing is more necessary than ever in an industry where demand is chiefly tied to corporate and leisure travel. Furthermore, total US revenue for travel services rose a scant 0.3 percent in first quarter 2011 compared to the same three months in 2010. And although corporate travel seems to have rebounded of late, agencies continue to seek cost efficiencies to return to profitability.
Needless to say, differentiation seems to be a good thing in the travel sector, and Sixthman has carved itself a pretty rockin’ niche.