Saturday, May 12, 2007

Travolution@Triton - Mergers ahoy

The Triton conference is being completely overshadowed by what was just industry gossip yesterday and is hard news today that the UK travel consortium is considering a merger.

This is big news.

The trio of companies that make up Triton – Advantage Travel Centres, Global Travel Group and Worldchoice – are in active talks and have, there is no doubt about it, Big Plans.

We have ambitions to be “one of the top three groups,” says George Begg, chairman of Global Travel Group and an advisor to Triton.

Big Four to Big Two to Big Three perhaps…

In simple terms, the mergers elsewhere in the industry (Thomas Cook-MyTravel and Thomson-FirstChoice) have forced Triton’s hand.

The plans, which are being discussed by the Triton board but are clearly well advanced, will see Triton become a multiple, using stock (air and hotels), tour operating (holidays) and distribution (shops, call centres and the web).

Begg reckons the difference between a potential Triton powerhouse (“virtual vertical integration,” he calls it) and the other giants will be distribution controlling supply, rather than the other way round.

The Long Tail in action...

To top it all off, there are plans for a floatation in three years time to raise £20 million in capital to assist in what are clearly ambitious growth plans.

From a corporate perspective, a fellow hack and I have already been speculating as to who will take the top job.

John McEwan (boss of Advantage Travel Centres) and Andrew Botterill (CEO of Global Travel Group and a Travolution board member) would – most suspect – be vying for the top job.

Begg finished outlining the merger plans. A quick Q&A gleaned nothing (understandably the Triton board are trying to remain pretty tight lipped).

Cue a quick rush to the doors for coffee break and discussions that will clearly dominate the weekend.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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