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Travel industry news

14 Aug 2019

BY James Chapple

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Great Rail Journeys agrees deal to acquire US rail operator

Great Rail Journeys (GRJ) has agreed a deal to acquire Vacations By Rail (VBR) as part of its plans to expand its operations in the US.

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Great Rail Journeys agrees deal to acquire US rail operator

GRJ said the deal for the Chicago-based rail operator would allow it to continue its international expansion plans and add new product, such as VBR’s rail river cruise range.


The deal will also give the UK market exclusive access to unique VBR product in North America’s national parks and in Alaska.


York-based GRJ employs more than 150 people and offers nearly 400 itineraries across more than 50 countries. It has pledged to redouble its commitment to the travel trade following the acquisition.


New source markets in recent years include Australia and the US, while new products range from river cruise to small group touring.


Established in 2004, VBR employs a team of 30 offering independent rail holidays, escorted rail tours, luxury rail journeys and tailormade rail itineraries throughout North America.


It brings to GRJ expertise in US national parks, the Rockies, Alaska and Canadian rail journeys.

'Stronger than ever' agent focus

'Stronger than ever' agent focus

Heather Leisman, GRJ president of North America, will oversee a new combined North American operation. VBR co-founders Todd Powell and Cole Dannewitz, meanwhile, will join the existing GRJ executive and transition into new roles with a global focus.


GRJ said its commitment to its trade partners would be “stronger than ever” with Lindsay Dixon continuing to provide support and education in the UK.


Peter Liney, Great Rail Journeys chief executive, said: “This acquisition is the first step of many as we look to enhance our position as the world’s leading rail holiday company.


“At a time of market uncertainty, it signifies our scale and ambition within the market and at one stroke makes us market leader for escorted rail holidays in the US.


“Building on recently launched programmes such as rail river cruise and small group tours, this deal will present the trade with added benefits and an unrivalled rail portfolio range, giving greater choice for all of our customers.


“From product expansion to investment in technology and strengthening both our escorted and independent travel business, the combination of our two businesses is very exciting for us all.”


Todd Powell, co-founder of chief executive of VBR, added the deal would build on the two company’s strong working relationship.


“The combination of our two companies represents a significant opportunity to grow our footprint in the rail vacation sector domestically and internationally, as well as accelerate into new markets,” he said. “We look forward to formally becoming part of the GRJ family.”

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