Travel Leaders boss eyes more UK high street agencies

Travel Leaders boss eyes more UK high street agencies

The boss of Travel Leaders Group has hinted at more high street travel agency acquisitions following its purchase of Barrhead Travel.

Chief executive Ninan Chacko said the UK presented “a lot of opportunities” for the US giant which has more than 7,000 owned, franchised or affiliated travel agencies in the US.

He said the group was attracted to companies with “strong balance sheets and strong management teams”.

Travel Leaders officially acquired Barrhead Travel this week for an undisclosed sum. Chairman Bill Munro and chief executive Sharon Munro will remain in their roles in the company as it looks to use the new investment to expand its business in the UK and in Europe.

Travel Leaders is the largest travel agency business in the US with more than 7,000 owned, franchised or affiliated travel agencies, including around 2,500 “brick and mortar” shops.

Chacko said: “We are looking for good businesses as evidenced by a successful trajectory, a strong management team. Could they involve shops? Absolutely.

“(Shops) aren’t necessarily a driving factor but they are part of the formula for success and we’re happy to embrace it.”

He said Travel Leaders was in talks with other agencies but none that he would “characterise as late stage”.

“We’re interested in the UK and expect to make more acquisitions in the future. The UK is a very healthy and high-quality market. I think there’s a home for every single kind of agency model.

“Expect to see us continue in the realm and be acquisitive.”

He said the group was looking for “luxury oriented businesses with size and scale”.

Travel Leaders was in discussions with Barrhead for more than 12 months before agreeing the acquisition.

“They were figuring out their options and we were aware so we initiated dialogue,” Xhacko said. “In our business we have been a serial acquirer – we bought 10 businesses last year.

“We are honoured they entrusted us. It’s a business model that generates success. We understand different markets have different habits and we think the Barrhead model is absolutely on a successful trajectory. Having that same team generate that success is critical.”

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