Altour Merger Latest Big Expansion for Travel Leaders

Ninan Chacko
Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko

Yesterday Travel Leaders Group announced plans to merge with Altour as part of the latest major expansion and reorganization at the company.

According to Travel Leaders, the merger with Altour, an independently owned travel management company based in the United States, will create a travel agency organization with nearly $24 billion in annual sales. In a statement announcing the merger Travel Leaders said that there were no plans for substantial operating or name changes to either of the two companies, and that Alexandre Chemla, Altours founder, president and CEO, will remain in his current leadership role while joining the Board of Directors of Travel Leaders Group Holdings. Ninan Chacko will remain Travel Leaders Group CEO.

New Vacation Brand

The merger is the latest big expansion and reorganization from Travel Leaders. In May, the company relaunched its Vacation.com brand as a consumer-facing online portal, dubbed simply Vacation. That site, which officially went live May 19, just released a new Honeymoon and Destination Wedding Calendar that gives couples-to-be tips on where to go and where to skip based on the month or season in which they are planning their event. The new calendar is part of a strategy where Vacation will at first focus on the destination weddings and honeymoons market, with later plans to expand into all travel segments.

Our initial focus is driving demand specific to honeymoon and destination weddings, but we do have content populating all of the other categories on the site and we are seeing demand for the other categories, Brian Hegarty, vice president of marketing at Travel Leaders Network, tells Travel Agent.

Hegarty says that the Vacation website is based around a concept called Perpetual Demand Generation focused on specific buyer journeys, in which content is created to attract desirable buyer personas, engage and nurture them, and ultimately convert them into a sale.

So from a demand generation aspect, the initial segment that we are targeting is honeymoon and destination wedding, but the brand Vacation and the website vacation.com has content to fulfill all of the emotional categories, Hegarty says.

Growth Plan

Over the past few years Travel Leaders has been undertaking a strategy to make best use of its economies of scale while growing the number of agencies it represents, according to an in-depth interview we conducted with CEO Ninan Chacko last year. At the time of that interview, the company had been in the middle of heavily investing in its hotel division with the March 2016 launch of the new pinSIGHT booking solution, as well as a new Select Wellness Collection of wellness-focused hotels and resorts. The organization had also just brought its Protravel and Tzell brands under the newly formed Elite Travel Division.

This past January, Travel Leaders Group also officially launched Travel Leaders Network, which brought together the Travel Leaders Franchise Group (including the Travel Leaders Associates and Results! Travel brands) with Vacation.com, which would later become Vacation. At the time Travel Leaders Network officials had told Travel Agent that the newly combined organization would have more leverage with suppliers, in some instances producing up to 60 percent of a given suppliers business.

Since its launch Travel Leaders Network has continued to expand, most recently adding nearly 165 travel agencies through the first half of 2017. The new agencies combined annual travel sales total nearly $352 million, according to an announcement made back in July, with a mix of both corporate and leisure clients.

Travel Leaders Group has also been expanding internationally, such as with a new exclusive cooperation agreement with Lufthansa City Center (LCC), a global franchise network of independent travel agencies based in Frankfurt, Germany. With locations in over 90 countries worldwide, Travel Leaders said that the deal would help it serve corporate accounts that have office locations in markets where Travel Leaders does not have a local presence.

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