The travel giant’s owner and managing director, Kuljinder Bahia, revealed at the Barclays Travel Forum on Wednesday that he intends to launch a student travel brand “in the next three months” and that sports travel would follow after that.
He has owned the brand-name ST Sports for 10 years, but added that he expects the contracting to be more complicated on the sports side than for student travel.
Bahia said that the need “to change and adapt” meant he had recently looked afresh at sectors he had previously though Southall Travel Group would not enter.
“Everything has changed; a lot of things that two years ago we decided we would not be doing, now we’re thinking of doing,” he said.
Launching a short-haul programme, to include Turkey, is also in the pipeline, he revealed.
Bahia said that the poor pound-rupee exchange rate since last year’s referendum result had a massive impact on staff costs at his 1,300-strong call centre in India.
However, rather than cutting bonuses and reducing salaries, he instead decided to increase bonuses, as long as employees committed to working even more efficiently and effectively.
He attributed the company’s profit growth of £100 million in 2016 in part to this strategy: “We didn’t have to hire anybody extra to get that growth.”
Southall Travel’s bold growth plans have seen it spend money on advertising for the first time, outlaying £20 million last year, including sponsoring English Premier League football and Indian Premier League cricket matches.
Paul Waite, the current chief of the Guild of Travel Management Companies, will join Southall Travel Group in September as chief operating officer of the group, a move that Bahia described as part of “getting the right structures in place” for growth.
The company’s headquarters will move from Buckinghamshire to Mayfair, London, in June, which Bahia said would be helpful to growing Southall’s business travel division.