Holidaysplease seeks agency buyouts as business floods in after site revamp

Luxury online travel agent Holidaysplease is looking to forge joint ventures or to acquire high street travel agents to help it meet increased demand following a revamping of its site.

The Birmingham-based specialist, which has 40 homeworkers plus a small sales team in its head office, said the offer would allow agents to move off the high street while remaining in business.

Director Charles Duncombe said it would also look at call centres and would even consider continuing to operate the high street store if it was a viable going concern.

He said he was interested in talking to good agencies with spare capacity to take enquiries generated by the website.

If a new travel agent partner opts to move off the high street the firm has office space available for it to operate from. Duncombe said the firm had capacity to take on up to three such agencies.

“We have de-merged from the group we were in to focus on travel,” said Duncombe. “Sometimes on the high street it’s either feast or famine, you either have loads of footfall or none.

“So we are interested in either a joint venture or an acquisition and we have office space here so they can continue to serve their existing customer base without necessarily having any high street presence.

“As an online agency we have that background and hopefully we can do some clever things to help grow their business. We recently made some tweaks to our website and have been flooded with enquiries.”

Duncombe said the tweaks revolved mainly around the look and feel of the website with the most dramatic change being the use of high quality, inspirational images.

He said this has had a dual impact of increasing conversion rates by 7% to 8% and the average value of each booking to above the £4,000 mark.

Some back office changes have also been brought in to enable Holidaysplease to access deals from tour operators more quickly and more efficiently.

Duncombe said, although the firm was a pure online player, he recognised there was still a need for a human touch, particularly when selling high-end holidays.

And he said he would not rule out the Holidaysplease name appearing on the high street if a potential partner was found that wanted to be acquired and the store was viable.

“My background is the internet and technology, so ideally I would love to have it so we have a much more automated process but because people are spending a lot of money they want to make sure it’s right before handing over their credit card details.

“Any Tom, Dick or Harry can set up a good looking website but there can be nothing behind it. That human touch is going to remain important for a long time to come.”

Holidaysplease is now an independent company after its founders, Duncombe, Richard Dixon and Sonia Dixon bought out former co-owner Bobbie Bhogal’s stake. The trio have also sold all their shares in parent group Just Say Please Ltd.

Holidaysplease is no longer part of the Just Say Please group, which still includes and, founded by Duncombe, although it will continue to share its offices.

The three founders pursued the buyout, worth about £1 million, to focus completely on the travel business, and plan to recruit 10 to 20 staff.

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