Cruise.co.uk is plotting rapid international expansion, acquisitions in the UK and Europe, and a massive recruitment drive after being sold for £52 million.
The online cruise specialist also plans to branch into new sectors, such as escorted touring, after being sold to Bridgepoint Development Capital last Friday, which previously owned luxury French cruise line Ponant.
Bridgepoint took a majority stake in the business, believed to be larger than the stake previous owner Risk Capital Partners held. Chief executive Seamus Conlon remains the second-largest shareholder.
Conlon said last Friday’s deal would help Cruise.co.uk achieve 50% growth in the UK over the next three years, fuelled in part by the planned recruitment of 75 consultants.
He also said the investment would help accelerate expansion in the UK and across Europe. The agency already has offices in Redditch, near Birmingham, Ireland and Australia, but plans to launch across Europe.
“We have big plans and big ambitions,” Conlon said. “We want to be the largest non-American cruise platform. We won’t go into America as a source market but anywhere else is fair game.”
Conlon does not rule out acquisitions in the UK and believes cruise agencies will consolidate.
“We will be an active player in that – leading acquisitions and the consolidation process in the UK and Europe,” he said. “Our core focus has been cruise and both ocean and river cruise have done amazingly well. We think our model could expand to other sectors, such as escorted touring and trains.
“These are products that, like cruise, are very much focused on the over-50s. This is on our agenda for the next year.”
Conlon said it hadn’t been decided if a new brand would be created for escorting touring.