Travel Counsellors seals its first acquisition in deal for Birmingham firm

Travel Counsellors, the Manchester-based holidays group, has acquired a Birmingham travel company for an undisclosed sum.

Vitruvian Partners-backed Travel Counsellors has swooped for fast-growing Holidaysplease

The acquisition strengthens Travel Counsellors’ position as the UK’s largest technology platform for travel entrepreneurs, which is on track to deliver £1bn+ platform sales in fiscal year 2023.

Holidaysplease has 100 home-working travel experts, 50 franchisees, and around 50 employees. It generated total transaction value (TTV) of more than £40m in 2022 and, like Travel Counsellors, has consistently enjoyed a coveted 5-star ‘Excellent’ rating on Trustpilot.

The acquisition strengthens Travel Counsellors’ position as the UK’s largest technology platform for travel entrepreneurs empowering and connecting nearly 2,000 independent business owners. It also builds on the company’s exceptional growth and strategic progress over recent periods highlighted by its record financial performance in 2022 when TTV on the Travel Counsellors platform increased to more than £700m, representing growth of more than 300% against the prior year which had been affected by pandemic lockdowns.

The deal marks Travel Counsellors’ first acquisition in its near 30-year history and comes on the back of its best month, in January 2023, where it generated £114m of sales on its platform supported by strong consumer demand for top selling destinations such as the USA, Spain, Greece, UAE and the Maldives.

This represented a 50% increase on the January prior to the pandemic and meant the company traded 65% up on pre-pandemic levels in quarter one of its new financial year. In addition, Travel Counsellors generated £86.3m of sales in February 2023, with a 22% increase on February 2022 marking the best February ever. Combined sales for January and February 2023 total more than £200m as consumers return to the travel sector.

Steve Byrne, CEO of Travel Counsellors, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the entire Holidaysplease community – we are incredibly excited at what this combination will mean for both businesses, our communities of travel experts, and our customers.

“Our strategic goal is to build a community of the very best travel entrepreneurs who are empowered by our technology to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Both businesses share incredibly similar cultures, each built on people-led values and a relentless focus on customer care. This is clearly reflected in both brands’ excellent customer feedback and ratings.”

He added: “Both businesses share outstanding momentum having each delivered exceptional growth in 2022 as well as record-breaking performances in January 2023, when Travel Counsellors achieved TTV of more than £110m while Holidaysplease recorded the most successful month of trading in its 20-year history. I am confident that this combination will only serve to strengthen both business’s momentum and exciting long-term prospects.

“The acquisition supports our growth strategy as we accelerate towards being a £1bn+ transaction value platform in the near future. Our proprietary technology and operating model are both highly scalable, and we look forward to the future with excitement and confidence.”

Charles Duncombe, director of Holidaysplease, said: “Travel Counsellors is a business we have long admired for its relentless customer focus, multi-award-winning proposition, and outstanding, technology-led growth.

“The opportunity to become part of such a strong, fast growing business with significant growth prospects was incredibly compelling. I have no doubt that our business and our teams of travel advisors and franchisees will continue to thrive and be cared for as part of Travel Counsellors. I am looking forward to working closely with Steve and the rest of the Travel Counsellors team to deliver our ambitious shared vision for the future.”

Travel Counsellors was advised on the transaction by Springboard Corporate Finance, Hazlewoods Corporate Finance, and Hill Dickinson while Holidaysplease was advised by Jerroms Accountants and Squire Patton Boggs led by corporate partner Andrew Glaze and associate Leyla Parvizi.