Blue Bay Travel, the award-winning online travel agent specialising in long-haul holidays to the Caribbean, Mexico and Indian Ocean, has secured a £6.5million investment from mid-market private equity firm LDC.
Founded in 2003 by Stuart and Angela Wilson, Blue Bay Travel provides holidays to more than 16,500 passengers per year – with a 31% increase in bookings in 2016.
The business operates under several specialist brands – including Caribbean Warehouse, specialising in destinations such as Mexico, Dominican Republic, Barbados and Saint Lucia – and Tropical Warehouse, focusing on the Indian Ocean and Far East. Since 2003 the business has won over 60 awards including Travel Company of the Year 2011 and Best UK Travel Call Centre of the Year 2015.
Following the investment, Blue Bay Travel plans to accelerate growth by investing in its proprietary price comparison technology and online booking platform, expanding its 60-strong team of travel experts, adding more homeworkers to the sales team – and launching new, innovative products.
This will include new facilities for online-only booking, new collaborations with travel operators for direct sales solutions and a white label website framework called Orcastra, plus expansion to new countries and destinations. In 2017 Blue Bay Travel will launch Xclusivity, providing luxury breaks to carefully selected long-haul and short-haul destinations.
As part of the deal, LDC has acquired a significant minority shareholding, with Investment Director David Andrews joining the board alongside independent non-executive Lawrence Dean, and travel industry veteran Andrew Gardner as non-executive Chairman.
The UK package travel industry is currently worth £33billion per year, as measured by annual turnover of ABTA members, while package holidays account for more than half of all holidays taken by UK consumers. In total, UK residents made over 65.7 million visits abroad in the latest annual figures, with a growth rate of 10.4% per year. Holiday-makers from the UK currently spend £800million per year on package holidays specifically to the Caribbean and Mexico.
Stuart Wilson, founder and CEO of Blue Bay Travel, said: “Partnering with LDC represents an exciting opportunity for Blue Bay Travel to build on our success to date, enabling us to invest further in our team and technology. We’ve come this far on our own, but the time is right to bring on board a partner with the capital and expertise to help us deliver the ultimate ambition for the business and create exciting new job opportunities under the guidance of our market-leading specialisms. LDC understood that vision right from the outset and have the track record in building great businesses in our sector.”
Andrew Gardner, newly-appointed non-executive chairman of Blue Bay Travel, said: “I’d seen Blue Bay Travel receive numerous awards over the years that honoured an unshakable commitment to industry-leading excellence in the long-haul travel sector. I felt inspired by what the team had achieved and I’m looking forward to contributing my knowledge and experience to the company’s future successes.”
David Andrews, Investment Director, LDC in London, adds: “Stuart and the team have built a high-performing, digital-first and customer-led business in Blue Bay Travel. Its destination expertise, brands and digital platform position it well to take advantage of positive dynamics in the sector. We’re excited about the potential for the business and look forward to working alongside the team on the next step of their journey.”
LDC was advised by: Armstrong Transaction Services: Commercial Due Diligence (Tom Raymond, Mike Callow), BDO LLP: Financial Due Diligence (Graham Elsworth, Louise Chubb), Intuitus Advisory: Technology Due Diligence (Douglas Eadie, Chris Jelley, Richard Irwin), Osborne Clarke LLP: Equity Documentation & Legal Due Diligence (Robert Wood, Alec Bartlett, Mike Freer, Emma Ladley)
The management team was advised by: Knight Corporate Finance (Sam Davies, Laura Cockburn), DWF LLP (Paul Rimmer, Alasdair Outhwaite, Rosie Spencer)View Blue Bay Travel in Our Portfolio