- According to a new report from the Local Data Company (LDC), almost 700 high street travel agencies closed last year amid stiff competition from online rivals. LDC’s retail and leisure trends report found that 679 travel agency outlets closed in 2017, accounting for the third highest number of closures among high street sector operators. (Pubs saw the biggest decline with 747 outlets shutting their doors, followed closely by banks which closed 711 branches.)
“The figures underscore the overwhelming level of competition facing the traditional high street travel agents from their online rivals,” said the report’s authors. Also, research conducted by audit, tax and consulting firm RSM earlier this year found that among 2,000 consumers, fewer than one in five said they booked their holidays in-store.
Ian Bell, head of travel and tourism at RSM said: “The competition from online travel firms is not a new phenomenon but the pace of decline among high street operators is still quite alarming. Consumers are still choosing to visit the high street in large numbers, but the overwhelming majority prefer the ease and convenience of booking their holidays online.
Private Equity Firms Betting Big on UK Travel Companies
Livingbridge has purchased a majority stake in Loveholidays.In announcing the transaction, the two groups said that the deal would allow the business to further expand in the UK and internationally. Livingbridge says it will continue to work with the existing Loveholidays senior management team who will remain with the business, led by founders Alex Francis and Jonny Marsh.
Loveholidays, an OTA that has grown rapidly, is licensed to carry 804,618 UK passengers this year. In April 2018, it became the UK’s sixth-largest Atol holder, having more than doubled its capacity since 2016.
Loveholidays was set up in 2012 by founders Francis and Marsh and reported turnover of £23,219,535 ($31.1 million) in the year ending October 2016.Loveholidays was ranked in the top 10 in the Sunday Times’ “Fast Track 100” list for the second year running in 2017, in recognition of its fast-growing sales.
In a shakeup at Travelopia—it is the collection of more than50 specialty brands acquired early last year from TUI by UK-headquartered private equity firm KKR—Martin Froggatt’s role as managing director of exhibitions and event has changed slightly. While he will retain responsibility for all sports events, adventure and U.S. tour operating businesses, he will relinquish responsibility for polar expedition brand Quark and private jet holiday operator TCS to chief executive Andy Duncan.In addition, Froggatt will become chief sales officer for the group, looking at “sales expertise and new sales opportunities”, Duncan said. The wide-ranging reorganization also resulted in the departure of Mathew Prior, managing director tailor-made and marine.
Travel Counsellors has been bought by private equity firm Vitruvian Partners in a deal understood to be worth around £250 million ($335 million). The company said that Vitruvian had backed the company in a “secondary management buyout” from Equistone Partners Europe.Equistone injected around £100 million ($134 million) into the business in October 2014 in a move led by chief executive Steve Byrne.In a separate announcement, Travel Counsellors founder David Speakman announced that he had sold his remaining interest in the business that he founded in 1994. Vitruvian has some experience in tour and travel, having previously invested in Skyskanner, OAG and JacTravel.
Speakman oversaw Travel Counsellors’ transformation into one of the largest independent travel agencies in the country, and its expansion to six more countries: Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, South Africa and the UAE.He stepped down from his role as chairman of Travel Counsellors in 2015 shortly after Equistone’s investment.
Reed & Mackay has expanded globally since its acquisition by private equity firm Inflexion in a deal which valued the business at £170 million ($228 million)in August 2016.The company, headed by chief executive Fred Stratford, acquired Chicago-based Gray’s Travel Management for an undisclosed sum in January 2017. The company recently opened an office in Singapore to add to offices in the U.S. and Dubai.
Corporate travel company Reed & Mackay has acquired rival Hillgate Travel in a private equity-backed deal that which creates a combined business will handle more than one million corporate travel transactions a year in the UK alone, with a UK staff of about 600 and UK turnover approaching £500 million.Hillgate Travel is an Advantage Travel Partnership member and has been headed by chief executive Anthony Rissbrook since September 2011.