Investment group Inc & Co has acquired Baldwins Travel in a bid to help the 126-year-old agency “navigate its way out” of the Covid crisis.
The multimillion-pound takeover of the eight-branch travel agency, established in 1895, will protect the jobs of more than 50 staff.
The Tunbridge Wells-headquartered business has shops in Cranbrook, Lewes, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tenterden, Tonbridge and Uckfield.
Former owners of Baldwins Travel, Chris and Nick Marks, who will both remain with the business going forward, said they hoped that the deal would mean the “excellent name of Baldwins Travel can flourish once again”.
Jack Mason, group chief executive of Inc & Co, said: “Although it’s been a difficult year for the wider sector, we’re delighted to be in a position to secure the futures of Baldwins’ employees and branches across Kent and Sussex.
“We’re really excited to bring Baldwins’ established brand heritage and the expertise of its long-serving staff into the Inc & Co family.”
Inc & Co was founded in 2019 and has 15 brands and 750 staff.
Mason said Inc & Co would bring its “expertise in digital and e-commerce to the table” which would “reignite Baldwins’ offering” and help meet pent-up demand for holidays both online and from “loyal” customers in-store.
“Baldwins is a great business with excellent management teams already in place, which is why it will very much remain a family-run operation,” Mason said. “Our plans looking forward to 2022 will see us invest in its tech infrastructure to ensure its online presence is on par with its in-store experience.”
Inc & Co said it would take on any existing payments due, with tour operators to receive all monies owed and all customers to be refunded any outstanding payments.
Announcing the takeover in a joint statement with Inc & Co, Chris and Nick Marks apologised to customers for furloughed staff being “unable to respond to correspondence” during the months-long pandemic.
They said joining Inc & Co “would help guide the business forward”, adding: “Being a family-owned and run business, we’ve had many very happy years at the helm of Baldwins.
“We have benefitted from fabulous long-lasting relationships with our customers, our team members and our trade suppliers.
“Going into the pandemic, we were a strong and successful business, but many industries and businesses have been upturned by Covid, and none more so than the travel industry. We were the first to be impacted and look to be the last to be able to recover.
“We have sought to ensure the excellent name of Baldwins Travel can flourish once again, which is why we are really pleased to be joining the Inc & Co team, who not only have a huge passion for travel but also have ambitions to invest in and develop the team, the brand and also the digital potential of the business.