25 Years of Success for Iglu

The UK’s #1 Ski and Cruise Retailer Reaches a Key Milestone

2023 sees Iglu trading for its 25th successful year. In 1998 Iglu’s ground-breaking concept at launch of selling ski holidays online set the course of the company’s progress through forward-thinking, creativity and innovation. Today Iglu is the UK’s #1 cruise and ski retailer and is continuing to grow as a business, investing in technology and reaching into international markets.

Iglu was created in September 1998 by Richard Downs from a small office in Baker Street and launched its first website at the SkiShow in London Olympia in October of that year. Until then, ski holidays were marketed and sold via high street shops, Teletext and classified ads. Selling ski holidays on-line was revolutionary! SkyTV filmed the Iglu website on press day at the Skishow and the publicity was invaluable. Within a year, Iglu had 30 employees and was growing fast.

The concept at launch was to create a one-stop shop online for ski holidays with the best deals and customer service, enabled by a great team committed to continual improvement through creativity and execution.

With a hybrid mix of analogue and digital offerings, but with a focus on innovation, Iglu pioneered user benefits such as virtual tours and snow reports. To enhance customer experience and bring business efficiencies Iglu internally developed solutions such as flat file availability, enquiry management and customer booking platforms, and embraced eticketing, ePDQ and Voice Over IP telephony amongst others. The cumulative effect of these innovations helped Iglu to become the largest retailer of ski holidays in the UK, a focus continued to this day.

Iglu joined the Cruise market in 2006, convinced that their model would shake up the sector. Layered on top were strong supplier relationships, increased speed to market with deals, customised newsletters and over time, top Google organic rankings.

Acquiring PlanetCruise in 2013 accelerated Iglu to become the largest cruise retailer in the UK. Speed of innovation was significantly boosted around this time with supplier API's, moving to the Cloud, a new CMS and improved data security. This was in addition to increased investment in site navigation, search functionality, conversion, and mobile capabilities

In 2017, Iglu entered the Spanish, Italian and French cruise markets. January 2020 was a record-breaking month in the UK, and the European sites were gaining momentum, then Covid hit. The pandemic was a tough challenge, remarkably, Iglu not only survived but emerged stronger and leaner, and now continues to gain UK market share, produce new record-breaking months and recently re-launched in Italy as a first step to returning to the continental markets.

Innovation in every department including Marketing, Sales and Customer Care, Commercial, Finance, and HR as well as Infrastructure and Front End has been ongoing and has been a key factor in the success of Iglu as we reach our 25th Anniversary. All of the success has been created and delivered by the great people within Iglu.

I'm enormously proud of the journey we have been through at Iglu and not least the fun we have had on the way, the awards we have received and the growing market leadership position we have achieved.

I'm absolutely positive that with the people and teams in place, the systems we have built up and the creative persistence that is ingrained within our culture, we are exceptionally well placed to further accelerate away from our competitors.

Richard Downs – Founder & Chairman