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Bruce Poon Tip vows to give agents ‘everything they need’ to sell the Just You and Travelsphere brands bought following All Leisure Group’s failure. Juliet Dennis reports

G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip said acquiring Travelsphere and Just You was like “winning the lottery”.

The adventure tour operator has bought the escorted touring brand and singles specialist from administrators Grant Thornton, creating a business with a $600 million turnover and more than 2,500 employees.

It began negotiations in November, finally winning the bidding process against another travel firm and a bank at the start of this year. The acquired brands were part of All Leisure Group, which ceased trading on January 4.

No change
For staff at Travelsphere and Just You, both based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, the message is “business as usual”.

One of Poon Tip’s first tasks was to reassure employees there were no plans to cut jobs, ditch brands or relocate.

He said: “We want to stabilise the business. Things crumbled around them. They are excellent, well-respected brands; we don’t want to lose that.”

Poon Tip added: “There is no reason to relocate or get rid of people. There is no change in direction or leadership.”

Travelsphere and Just You chief executive Ian Smith will report directly into Poon Tip.

Allowing the business to operate with its own culture and identity while also embracing some of G Adventures’ core business principles is critical, according to Poon Tip.

“We want it to have its own identity. They have their own culture and we don’t want to disrupt that. We don’t want them to become us. At the same time the brands will follow our guidelines of social enterprise and they will have the same ethos,” he said.

Perfect fit
G Adventures had been on the acquisition trail for some time and was attracted to the Travelsphere and Just You brands because of their heritage, scope for growth and the way they could complement the group’s existing business, said Poon Tip.
Travelsphere has a more mature demographic, while G Adventures has a younger client base.

“They are legacy brands, which is important to us. Travelsphere is 50 years old. It is a completely different demographic so it complements our business. It is the perfect fit,” he added.

Trade reliance
Another key difference is trade sales. Direct bookings account for 90% of sales for Travelsphere and Just You. In contrast, 70% of G Adventures’ business comes from agents or wholesalers.

“We can learn a huge amount from each other,” said Poon Tip.

“The first thing we are going to do is increase their trade business. We will give agents everything they need to support these brands.”
Poon Tip said he would look to widen distribution of the newly acquired brands. About 95% of Travelsphere and Just You’s customers are from the UK, while G Adventures has customers from 160 countries.

Future plans
In the longer term, Poon Tip plans to evaluate the newly enlarged business. This will include looking at possible synergies in areas such as river cruise, which is offered by both G Adventures and its new brands.

“We have lots of ideas about how to share business,” he said.

“We have not come in here to dictate terms. We will see how we can integrate some of their programmes. They serve totally different types of travellers.”

Poon Tip added: “There have been plenty of [instances of] brands buying companies and trying to amalgamate them. It takes the heart out of the business.

“We have bought a profitable company. If we were buying a distressed company it would be different.”