From the publisher: September

Bruce Piper

August 2017 would have to go down in history as one of the biggest months ever for Australian travel industry mergers and acquisitions. Helloworld, Flight Centre and Intrepid Group all announced significant deals, showing that there’s definitely never a dull moment in the travel industry.

The month kicked off with Helloworld Travel announcing it would take a minority stake in one of its biggest members, the Hunter Travel Group (HTG), which operates seven fully branded Helloworld Travel stores in Newcastle and the surrounding areas, along with two Cruise Travel Centres. The HTG portfolio also includes eight Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania travel outlets in Tasmania in partnership with the RACT, along with another Cruise Travel Centre in Hobart.

Interestingly, the complex deal also saw HTG acquire a 75% stake in Helloworld Travel’s seven fully owned retail outlets. The former Harvey World Travel stores are located in Maroochydore, Queensland; Knox Westfield and Toorak in Victoria; Eastgardens Westfield and Parramatta Westfield in NSW; Canberra City in the ACT; and Bunbury in Western Australia. Hunter Travel Group will grow to a total of 25 outlets nationally, including 14 fully branded Helloworld Travel stores and 11 Helloworld Associates. Altogether they employ more than 100 staff with an annual TTV of over $120 million.

The Helloworld deals continued later in August with the acquisition of a stake in Mackay-based Cooney Investments Pty Ltd — the operator of Helloworld Travel Mackay, Helloworld Travel Mount Pleasant and also the Hosted Journeys group travel and events products. Prices paid for the Helloworld acquisitions have not been made public at this stage.

Flight Centre also had a very busy August in terms of deals, moving into the Australian home-based agency space with the $3.5 million purchase of Jeff Hakim’s Travel Partners. In New Zealand Flight Centre paid $8.3 million for the Travel Managers broker network (unrelated to the House of Travel-owned TravelManagers operation in Australia) and $11.1 million for corporate agency Executive Travel Group.

That was in addition to other recent Flight Centre acquisitions in Mexico and Canada — while the Flight Centre annual report also revealed the $9.8 million purchase price for the company’s 49% stake in the Ignite Travel Group, which it acquired just over a year ago.

Intrepid Travel and Chimu Adventures also joined the M&A fray last month, announcing a “strategic partnership” which saw Intrepid buy 50% of the South American specialist — the first investment by the company since it split with TUI two years ago and returned to independent ownership.