New chief executive Mal Barritt told TTG: “There have been a lot of changes, and we can understand uncertainty in the market, but we are now very fixed on our strategy – the business plan is very much signed off and in place, and we hope to have removed any confusion about what the business stands for now.”
Aiming to hit £100 million turnover this year, the operator has split its brands into two divisions – specialist and luxury – a move Barritt claimed had already led to uplift in bookings from the trade.
The luxury travel division includes Inspiring Travel Company and Villa Select and is headed up in the trade by Elaine Jones, while the specialist division covers Rainbow Tours, Regent Holidays and ITC Sports Travel and is taken to the trade by Jon Hardcastle.
“We are definitely seeing strong growth in sales already as a result of the clear split and focus,” said Barritt.
He and ITC chairman Jennifer Atkinson hosted agents, hoteliers and media at an event at Shangri-la Hotel at The Shard last week to update the sector on its portfolio and plans.
Atkinson said: “I want to create an empire that’s the best travel company in the UK, if not the world. For that, I recognise I need to bring new people into the team that can take us to the next level – that includes Mal.”
The group, which is backed by private equity firm NorthEdge Capital, has seen a 5% lift in headcount over the past 12 months and is investing £1 million in technology solutions, partly in response to trade feedback that quotes and documentation needed to be delivered more efficiently.
Barritt said: “Phone software will be rolled out starting from the end of July to help get enquiries to the right individual even quicker.” There will also be a “wholesale change in the back office system to deliver the best quotes at the best price with speed”.
He admitted systems had been “creaking” with the integration of brands and growth of the business.
Further support for the trade will include a new brand-wide incentive programme launching “imminently”, supporting agents in their own events, as well as continuing fam trips.
Adding that, overall, half of the group’s business is currently booked through the trade, Barritt said there was “definitely growth there”.
Meanwhile, Barritt said the firm’s recent involvement in a new luxury travel business was a “one-off”.
Elite Travel Concierge (ETC) has been set up as “an ultra-luxury travel service for a select group of valued members” by Geoff Moss, the founder of Elegant Resorts, with several members of the team from Elegant leaving in recent months to join ETC.
Based in Chester, ETC has been set up “in partnership with the ITC Travel Group” and has “full access to the group’s worldwide portfolio of hotel and airline product”. All bookings sit under ITC bonding, but ETC is run autonomously under the management of David Gearie.
Speaking to TTG, Barritt said: “They needed the platform. It’s its own entity, and we are there to support them, like a franchise, I guess you would say.”