G Adventures hit the headlines earlier this month when it emerged it had acquired former All Leisure Holidays Group firms Travelsphere and Just You. Founder Bruce Poon Tip speaks to Jennifer Morris about why the operator remains in ‘growth mode’.
The boss of G Adventures has hinted at imminent further acquisitions following the purchase of Just You and Travelsphere from All Leisure Holidays Group’s (ALG) administrators, Grant Thornton, on December 30 for a reported £625,000 according to documents seen by TTG.
Founder Bruce Poon Tip visited ALG’s former Leicestershire headquarters for the first time to address staff last week. Speaking to TTG, he confirmed G Adventures remained in “growth mode”.
Asked if the company would consider further acquisitions, Poon Tip said: “We have been looking to acquire for a while – we were looking at Abercrombie & Kent before it was sold [to Zhonghong Holdings last July]. We have been waiting for the right opportunity.”
Poon Tip admitted there was competition for the two tour operations. “We had a battle on our hands – there were a lot of aggressive companies after them, particularly investment funds. There were large and small firms, some were competitors and some were corporate.”
Poon Tip said G Adventures was “still on the acquisition trail” and was “looking at some options”.
“We look for companies which can offer opportunities for us and add value, as and when they arise. You will probably be hearing from me again before too long,” he added with a smile.
He continued: “Our business in the UK now represents hundreds of millions of dollars in turnover and at the moment the pound is at the right exchange rate for shopping.”
Agents worried about the changes should feel reassured though, Poon Tip confirmed they would see more support from Just You and Travel-sphere after the recent acquisition.
He said while the immediate priority was “to stabilise the businesses”, after extracting them from the holding company, the next step would be to ramp up relations with the trade.
“Previously I don’t think Just You and Travelsphere offered enough in terms of agent support,” he said.
For G Adventures in the UK, 80% of business comes through wholesalers or retail, but Just You and Travel-sphere are about 90% direct.
“We want to change that message and do more,” he said, adding that ALG’s business model was “very different” from G Adventures’.
“Agents can expect to be supported and hear from us more. We will expand the sales teams.”
Poon Tip revealed the acquisition of Just You and Travelsphere had taken G Adventures’ proportion of UK sales from 26.5% to 45%.
“Travelsphere and Just You are both profitable brands,” he pressed. “If they were burning cash we would have had to come in and do major cost cutting, but we haven’t had to, and we’re keeping all the jobs.”
The Canadian entrepreneur also ruled out the possibility of bringing the existing G Adventures team and the Just You and Travelsphere teams together in one office, and was optimistic about the future of the Market Harborough premises.
“We have no plans to move from Market Harborough,” he tells me.
“We can stay here for as long as we want, or we can buy the building. We probably wouldn’t bring the staff together with G Adventures,” he added. “We want the companies to remain distinct and we wouldn’t want to alienate either market.”
Poon Tip said if the brands decided to stay in the building long-term he would want to redecorate.
And while the cultures of the businesses may be different, Poon Tip believes their values are the same.
“There are opportunities for synergies between the companies, but we don’t want to take away their identities,” he said.
“We have a very positive office of people here. I was expecting the atmosphere to be bitter, but it is not – staff love the brands. They have been through many pairs of hands in the past few years and we’re going to give them some TLC.”