Travel Leaders Group last week announced its acquisitions of the Austin, Texas-based Andrew Harper Travel Office and United Kingdom-based Colletts Travel Limited, both luxury agencies. Senior editor Jamie Biesiada spoke with Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko about the acquisitions and what it means for the company in the luxury-travel market.
Q: Between the acquisitions you announced last week and the creation of the Elite Travel Division last spring -- consisting of Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group -- it seems you're making a big push into the luxury space. Is that the case?
A: That is very much the case. I think even prior to this we were the largest luxury travel agency organization in North America. ... Really, while I think the focus originally has always been on Tzell and Pro and our Elite Travel Division, clearly we've got a luxury footprint that extends well beyond Elite, even across Travel Leaders Network and in Nexion.
So for me, just to start first with Andrew Harper, I think it's very much a very public declaration of our luxury play. In effect, when you think about it, we're really using what is already a very significant asset base that we have at Travel Leaders in terms of our overall footprint, plus the capital we have access to to really solidify our luxury position in 2017 and beyond. We're already building on the momentum we've had historically to very firmly establish ourselves as the leading luxury travel organization with both of these acquisitions. ... I think it very firmly, now indisputably, puts us in that position as being preeminent in the industry. And we'll just continue with it.
Q: What should we expect on the horizon in the luxury space with Travel Leaders Group? Are more acquisitions in your future?
A: Absolutely. I think you should sort of see this as very much an underscoring of what we've historically been all about in luxury ... if you'd like, even signaling that there's plenty more to come with respect to acquisitions, with respect to investment, with respect to adding more agents.
Q: Any future plans to grow either the Andrew Harper or Colletts brands within Travel Leaders Group?
A: We do, and obviously more to come ... I think we've got some great thoughts on essentially where to take all of that but [are] not quite ready for prime time on that.
Q: What is it that draws you to luxury?
A: I think it's really mostly driven by the fact that, from a revenue standpoint and from a price standpoint, obviously we generally find that there's more inelasticity in price. In essence, I think consumers at the luxury end of the spectrum are less sensitive to fluctuations -- be they price fluctuations, be they other factors that might affect travel. So inherently, [luxury is] a far more stable base of the marketplace to operate in, at least as far as travel, in our estimation. And then, obviously, there's the revenue potential that lies within it.