Lee Marshall, partnership director for the group, said 2016 had been an abnormal year in terms of booking behaviour but that the group had seen strong growth across its brands.
ITC Luxury Travel Group comprises tour operator ITC Luxury Travel, Western & Oriental, ITC Sports Travel, Deva Travel, Regent Holidays, Villa Select, Rainbow Tours and Horse Racing Abroad. In agent sales, Rainbow Tours was up 40% year-on-year, Regent Holidays and Western & Oriental up 25% and ITC Luxury Travel up 10%.
Marshall said: “It’s a challenging market where we’ve had to work that little bit harder than in previous years, but we’re happy with where we’ve got to. We’ve seen unusual booking patterns, with December much busier than we’d anticipated – the first week of which was one of the most buoyant weeks of the year.
“There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason for this spike in new business, but I believe it may be down to pent-up demand following uncertainty over the summer.”
He said ITC’s agent strategy for 2017 would focus on service delivery rather than just showering agents with fam trips and events, adding: “Of course we’ll continue to host great trips and incentives, but we want to place exceptional service at the centre of everything we do – the other bits are just window dressing… We want to forge relationships, not one-night-stands, with like-minded businesses who value partnership.”
Marshall revealed that ITC would be investing £200,000 in fam trips across the group in 2017 and would be launching a revised staff incentive programme and product training, with OTT going live across the whole portfolio in January.
Trips with Rainbow Tours will travel to Madagascar and Chile among other unusual destinations.
Marshall added: “Agents are starting to view us as more of a group now, and we need to ensure that our agent-friendliness is entirely consistent across the brands.”
ITC Luxury Travel Group secured a multimillion-pound private equity investment from NorthEdge Capital in August and announced at the time that it was planning the acquisition of more travel businesses.
Marshall said acquisitions were still in the pipeline for next year.