Social network and travel advice site Gapyear.com has been acquired by Flight Centre for an undisclosed sum.
Founder Tom Griffiths, who established the business in 1998, will remain as CEO to lead the global expansion of the brand and website.
Flight Centre UK managing director Chris Galanty said: “Gapyear.com is a unique online and ‘offline’ brand that is not only an industry descriptor but which includes the domain name within the brand. A rarity.
“It has enormous global potential and slots naturally into our stable of businesses in the independent and adventure travel market.
“The global ‘gap year’ market is valued in excess of $10 billion, and with the reach of the Flight Centre Group worldwide our intentions are to dominate this space with a singular global strategy under the one brand.
“Gapyear.com’s ‘vertical social network’ model gives us the ability to launch a targeted multi-country, multi-age-group platform with a localised purchase facility delivered through our global network of 2,000 stores. And with 12,000 staff worldwide our ability to engage with our customers both offline through our stores and online within our own niche social media channel, makes for an exciting prospect.
“This is arguably one of the first pure ‘clicks & mortar’ models in the travel space.”
Griffiths said: “The potential of the gapyear.com brand globally in our niche market is limited only by the knowledge and resource behind it.
“To achieve success it requires a smart forward-thinking team with high ambitions and a hunger for achieving financial results in a difficult climate.
“Flight Centre, which is currently making profit where most are making cuts, ticks all three boxes and is a perfect fit.
“It’s one thing growing gapyear.com’s social network, which at 13 years old was the first social network in the UK travel sector, it’s another thing monetising it.
“However, the ability to bolt gapyear.com into an established global network of stores and online brands such as Student Flights, Round the World Experts, Flight Centre and Liberty Travel, all packed with passionate staff brimming with unique user generated content, will enable us to deliver a targeted trip planning service local to the end user, globally and age specific.”