In Private Jet News, TUI Buys Luxury Adventure Company
U.K.-based TUI Travel (http://www.tuitravelplc.com) has acquired Starquest Expeditions (http://www.starquestexpeditions.com), a luxury travel adventure company in Seattle that primarily offers tours by private jet at an average ticket price around $50,000 per passenger. The goal of the acquisition, according to John Wimbleton, managing director of TUI’s travel activity sector, is to increase the company’s portfolio in the niche business of adventure travel, which already includes luxury adventure operator TCS Expeditions (http://www.tcs-expeditions.com).
Adventure travel is quickly becoming a booming business for tour operators. In a recent survey of adventure travel practices and trends by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (http://www.adventuretravel.biz), 83 percent of 220 adventure tour operators saw revenue increases in 2004-2005, the most recent year data is available for. What’s more, the survey found that of the 83 percent who reported increases, the average gross revenue increase was approximately 25 percent, with profit increases averaging roughly 22 percent.
At press time, Wimbleton could not discuss TUI’s travel activity sector growth, but characterized it as substantial. The decision to acquire Starquest was based on an appreciation of how well the company had cornered the adventure travel market.
“We’ve got a great business in TCS and we could see what Starquest was doing, so we started to have a chat about selling,” Wimbleton said. “We’d like to continue growing and doing more [adventure-based] itineraries, so the real trick is using Starquest’s skill and imagination to build new itineraries that will keep the customer excited.”
Wimbleton said Starquest and TCS would operate as separate entities. “We want them to keep operating as two very successful business, and where it makes sense to share knowledge, they will, but we haven’t bought Starquest with the thought of pushing the two businesses together,” he said, noting that Starquest’s management team would remain in place.
“The most important thing is to help them carry on growing,” Wimbleton continued. “We can give them access to aircraft; we have good finance skills, so we can always help there. We’re simply here to help and advise.” —Jennifer Merritt