Barrhead Travel cruises to first takeover deal

Chief executive Sharon Munro. Picture: Chris James
Chief executive Sharon Munro. Picture: Chris James
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HOLIDAY provider Barrhead Travel has unveiled the first acquisition in the company’s 37-year history in a multi-million pound deal propelling the firm’s sales through the £200 million mark.

The travel agency and tour operator has snapped up The Cruise Specialists, a Larbert-based firm that sells luxury cruises over the internet, for about £3m.

All 60 staff from The Cruise Specialists, which sold £33m-worth of holidays last year, will transfer to Barrhead Travel, with founder and sole shareholder Phil Ginn staying with the firm as managing director.

The purchase will take the group’s headcount in Scotland to more than 700 staff.

Barrhead Travel chief executive Sharon Munro, daughter of founder and chairman Bill, believes that the deal will make her firm the largest cruise retailer in the UK.

“This acquisition has seen Barrhead Travel end 2012 on a very high note,” she said.

“After a successful year in which the company opened several managed and corporate branches, we have now taken the next step toward our planned expansion.”

Munro added: “We already have a large, multi-million pound cruise division, which is expanding year-on-year.

“The Cruise Specialists is purely a direct and online cruise retailer, specialising in the luxury end of the market.

“The majority of its customers come from south of the Border and so this purchase will further strengthen the position of Barrhead Travel as a major cruise sales agency within England and the rest of the UK.”

Barrhead Travel predicts the acquisition will increase its turnover in 2013 by 22 per cent to more than £200m.

The Cruise Specialists will be drawn into the business as a subsidiary but will not be merged with the existing Cruise Direct brand.

Ginn added: “After achieving great success in our own right, I am tremendously excited to be joining forces with one of the most highly-respected and ambitious travel companies in the UK.

“Joining Barrhead Travel Group will allow us to take the company to the next 

News of the takeover follows on from Barrhead Travel’s expansion into the supermarket sector, with the firm opening a concession within a Sainsbury’s branch in East Kilbride in September.

The group now has 41 stores throughout Scotland, having opened 11 branches in the past 12 months.

Accounts posted at Companies House in April showed that pre-tax profits soared by 73 per cent in 2011 to just ­under £1.9m.

Sales rose by 30 per cent to £128.9m during 2011, with the firm’s revenues jumping to £42.2m from £31.7m.

The company has continued to grow amid turbulent times for rivals, with several smaller travel agencies closing and industry giant Thomas Cook revealing plans last month to slash a further £100m in costs after suffering pre-tax losses of £485m.