Major Travel to ramp up agency activity after InteleTravel deal

Tailor-made B2B operator Major Travel is ramping up its activities with agents across the UK thanks to the investment from new majority shareholder InteleTravel.

The homeworking agency announced on Wednesday (May 22) that it has taken a majority stake in the north London-based long-haul specialist, saying cash injection would enable Major Travel to “grow significantly while retaining its operational independence”.

Qasim Gulamhusein, Major Travel managing director, told a Travel Weekly webcast: “From a Major travel perspective, you’ll definitely be seeing a much bigger push from us.

“You may have started to see it already in the last six to 12 months, but that will accelerate in the next six to 12 months.”

He said Major has already started recruiting business development managers in the UK to develop relationships with agents, and it will also hire BDMs in Ireland where it will expand later this year.

It will also host a dinner for agents towards the end of the year as part of Major’s 50th anniversary celebrations, along with competitions and virtual roadshows.

There are also plans to double the headcount by the end of the year – currently the team has almost 90 employees across the UK, Cape Town and the Philippines.

James Ferrara, InteleTravel co-founder and president, added: “Principally this deal is about growing Major. It is an investment in Major.

“It is an investment in the people because, like any service business, customers come and go and the customers that are there for Major today – which are some of the largest retailers in the country – could decide to put business elsewhere.

“Our investment is a vote of confidence in those people [at Major]. They have what it takes to make Major into something new and different.”

When Gulamhusein joined Major Travel in 2017, he switched the business from mostly US flight-only sales towards tailor-made packages for the trade.

“We’ve successfully transitioned – packages were about 10% of our business in 2017; they are about 80% in 2023 and even higher in 2024,” he said.

“Our average booking value has tripled since 2017. It is over £5,000 per booking.”

Gulamhusein said the deal means that second phase of growth can now begin, with Major Travel aiming to be the UK’s leading trade-exclusive long-haul tailor-made tour operator in five years’ time.

“We need to build product; we need to have the best and exclusive products across the world which we can do through InteleTravel and through our own contracting,” he said.

“We need to have the best service for agents. We’ve already been pioneers in fully agent-branded posters [and] marketing for agents because we are trade exclusive.

“We want to build on that and give agents the tools they need to grow their own businesses.”

He also anticipates being able to double or even triple the current average selling price of £5,000.

Asked about the size of Major Travel’s annual Atol of 11,877 compared to other B2B long-haul operators, such as Gold Medal, which is more than 310,000, Gulamhusein added: “Gold Medal has a mix of different businesses. For us it’s about being the biggest in terms of tailor-made long-haul which I think we can achieve in five years’ time.”

Ferrara commented: “That is an indication of the quality of management at Major and Qasim’s talent – because he’s not thinking about any business that comes Major’s way.

“Upscale premium product is more profitable.”

Gulamhusein also assured other agents that the InteleTravel deal won’t affect its dealings with the rest of the UK trade.

“We are aiming to provide the best quality service for all our agents. We’re not planning to change any commission terms for other agencies or for InteleTravel,” he said.

“Our goal has been, and will continue to be, becoming the leading tailor-made supplier for all UK agents.”

Ferrara confirmed: “This deal is at the investment level, it’s not at the operational [level].

“Major will continue to operate independently; it will continue under the same management and the same staff and then some, but it’s a level playing field.”

Gulamhusein highlighted how direct sales remain “a big threat” for agents although the “dial has shifted a bit” since Covid as people are looking for service as well as price and product.

“We want [agents] to be able to compete, not just on terms of product, not just in terms of service, but also in terms of price,” he said.

“And if homeworkers and independent travel agents can provide all of those, they will be on to a winning formula across the board.”

More developments are planned for Major Go, the operator’s mobile-friendly booking platform, as well as expansion by Major into the Irish and US markets.

“We have already started the process of setting up our licensing in Ireland and that should be ready in the next two three months,” said Gulamhusein.

“It’s all systems go for the next stage of our growth.”

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