Investment in tech helps Travel Counsellors hit £500m milestone

Investment in tech helps Travel Counsellors hit £500m milestone

Travel Counsellors has credited commitment to invest in its technology for improved trading that has seen it surpass £500 million annual total transaction value for the first time.

Chief executive Steve Byrne said investment in the business is at a record high two-and-a-half years after Equistone Partners bought a 60% stake from founder David Speakman and his family.

He said the possibility of an IPO in the future remains on the table as the firm assesses its options to drive its next stage of growth.

Byrne said: “The position has not changed since Equistone invested two-and-a-half years ago. Business is performing well and investment is at a record high.”

In December Travel Counsellors announced a £21 million investment in the company during 2017 as it sought to boost its digital infrastructure.

This is due to cover a “heavy investment” in its in-house booking technology that allows its agents to act as tour operators and earn a higher margin.

The firm said this has already seen the system increase the level of sales it transacts by 12% over the last 12 months. A quarter of revenues are now driven from outside the UK.

Byrne said: “The strong growth figures we have enjoyed in recent years underlines the rising appetite from consumers for a more personal approach to holidays and business travel.

“With access to a wide range of rich data, facilitated by state of the art technology, we are able to understand our customers’ needs and habits, enabling our Travel Counsellors to alter their approach and arrange truly bespoke trips.”

The Manchester-based travel agency has 1,000 franchisees based at home in the UK and 600 overseas in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

Annual total transaction values to March surpassed £500 million for the first time, up 22% in the UK and 20% overseas, while January was a record month with £65 million worth of sales.

Turnover for the 12 months to October 2016 rose for the 11th consecutive year to £188 million, up from £162 million, while profits were up 34% to £13.3 million. Since the 2014 Equistone investment profits are up a total of 60%.

Byrne said as well investment in technology growth was down to its loyal customer base – 63% of sales are repeat bookings and average spend is up 25% to £2,600 over the last five years.

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