Travel Counsellors has announced that Equistone Partners Europe, one of Europe’s leading mid-market private equity firms, has invested a stake in the company to facilitate an MBO.
Founded in 1994 by David and Maureen Speakman, Travel Counsellors’ concept of enabling travel professionals to work from home while supporting them in all areas of their business, has seen the company achieve 60% growth over the past five years, with forecast global sales for the financial year-end (31st October 2014) of £424 million (€538m).
The company envisages that investment from Equistone to facilitate a Management Buy Out of the business will provide it with a platform to build on this growth even further, while still maintaining the unique and highly personal approach to travel that has seen Travel Counsellors achieve one of the highest customer satisfaction scores* in the world.
The business will maintain its existing management team including Managing Director Steve Byrne, who has been with the firm for 10 years, and David Speakman, who will remain in his role as Chairman. Steve said: “We will use the investment and partnership with Equistone to take the company to yet another level and accelerate our growth, enabling us to capitalise on the many opportunities we have to expand the business further in both leisure and corporate sectors. This expansion will further bolster our global buying power and strengthen our position as the market-leading travel company for personal service, to the benefit of our agents globally.”
As part of the deal, Equistone partner Steve O’Hare will join the board of the company as a non-executive director. He said: “Travel Counsellors has shown impressive long-term year-on-year growth under the current management team. The additional funding will be used to develop its support to its agents and market leading software, which is crucial to ensure high levels of service to its growing customer base. We look forward to working with the team and are excited about their plans to expand the business in new and existing territories.”
Travel Counsellors has over 1,300 travel professionals operating in eight countries worldwide, including Ireland, Belgium, South Africa, Netherlands, UAE, Australia and Canada, supported from the company’s central head office in the UK, which now has over 200 staff and a further 60 plus in its overseas offices. The investment from Equistone will enable the company to further boost the support it offers to its global family of agents, as well as bolstering its global buying power and potential for further overseas expansion.
David Speakman said: “It has always been my intention to ensure the long-term interests of the company and this latest move enables us to realise the next exciting phase of its growth, making Travel Counsellors even stronger for the benefit of each individual agent.
“We have partnered with Equistone as they buy into our proven business model globally, and our culture and ethos, first and foremost of putting the customer first and having superb, special people as Travel Counsellors and support staff who are committed to doing that. As such we can offer those who want to enjoy the rewards and benefits of running their own travel business an extremely promising future.”
* Travel Counsellors uses the Net Promoter Score system to measure customer satisfaction. Two weeks after booking all customers are sent a simple question ‘How likely is it that you would recommend your Travel Counsellor to your friends and colleagues?’ Customers can give a score ranging from 1 to 10. Since Travel Counsellors started measuring customers’ responses in 2007 it has consistently achieved a world-beating score of over 90%, far higher than that achieved by other travel companies and putting it among just a handful of companies worldwide that are rated so highly by their customers.