Online luxury tour operator Destinology sold to Stewart Travel parent

Online luxury tour operator Destinology sold to Stewart Travel parent

Saga announced it was closing the brand in September after previous sale fell through

Stewart Travel owner Brooklyn Travel Holdings has acquired online luxury tour operator Destinology from Saga for an undisclosed sum.

Brooklyn Travel Holdings, which owns businesses including Canterbury Travel, Villa Select, CruiseKings, Scotland’s Cruise Centre, GolfKings and My Canada Trips, approached over-50s specialist Saga following news it was shutting the tour operation in September after its original sell-off plans fell through.

Brooklyn said it had bought assets including the brand, database and Bolton head office, which comes on a long-term lease. It has not acquired Destinology’s retail premises in Wilmslow.

In total, 500 forward bookings have been transferred across to Brooklyn Travel Holdings’ Atol following approval from the Civil Aviation Authority.

The brand will be retained and the business will be run as a separate entity within the group, which over time hopes to restore it to its “former glory”.

Around 100 staff, who were in consultation with Saga over the closure of the business, have now entered a consultation with Brooklyn Travel Holdings. A “significant number” will retain their jobs.

Chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “We are delighted to have acquired Destinology. We have been interested in the luxury travel sector for some time and were looking for opportunities.

“We were surprised and saddened when we read that Destinology was being closed down so at that point we approached Saga with an alternative proposition which we have worked on over the last few weeks.”

He said the business’ culture “fit” with its own and that “stringent efforts” would be made to ensure staff were happy under their new owners.

He added: “We want them to be happy with their jobs and make them feel at ease. We will definitely retain a significant number of them, but not all. Some may already have got other jobs.”

A Saga spokesperson said: “We are pleased to confirm the completion of the sale of Destinology to Brooklyn Travel . We would like to thank the Destinology team for their hard work and commitment over the past few years and wish them well for the future.”

The Bolton premises will remain Destinology’s head office following the acquisition and could become the base for future businesses acquired by the group, Wilson said.

Brooklyn Travel Holdings is in talks with “one or two” other businesses but no acquisitions are “imminent”.

He said: “As and when we find other things in the north of England we will probably base them in the same place. We will undoubtedly acquire other businesses in the next year or so.

“We are looking for solid, viable businesses. We are interested in cruise; there are a number of cruise distributors who may feel they are not in a position to carry on or need assistance.”

Wilson said the group planned to put a marketing plan in place for Destinology for January when it expects there to be a pick-up in sales for bookings for summer and autumn 2021.

He said: “There is no rush. We will make sure people are happy and the internal processes all work together. We do anticipate we will see an uptick in bookings and will formulate our plans for what we think we will sell in January for August onwards.

“Destinology is a business that in the last five years or so has every year sold £50 million to £60 million of luxury holidays and made around £1.2 million each year.

“This was a good, strong business prior to this unexpected Covid disaster. It will not beat that this year because this year will continue to be super-tough but once Covid passes, there is no reason why we cannot get it back to its former glory.”

Wilson said the group was in a strong financial position to withstand the impact of the pandemic. Last year Brooklyn Travel Holdings’ brands carried around 120,000 passengers.

Brooklyn Travel Holdings was formed nearly two years ago as part of the sale of Stewart Travel from the Minoan Group. This followed Wilson’s departure from Minoan. Previously, Wilson was chief executive of Direct Holidays, which was sold to Airtours Group where he became UK chief executive before its rebrand as My Travel Group.