Leading inbound operator Hotels & More is merging with Dublin-based rival Irish Welcome Tours.
The agreement brings together two complementary businesses to create a market-leading operator across both the UK and Ireland.
No financial terms were disclosed, however the deal builds on “rapid growth” achieved by Hotels & More since it was backed by Mayfair Equity Partners in a buyout in October 2015.
Hotels & More handled more than 100,000 travellers last year on 2,700 tours while Irish Welcome Tours arranged trips for more than 70,000.
The Irish company has direct relationships with more than 600 hotels and visitor attractions throughout Ireland through its brands, which include Authentic Vacations, Hotels Ireland and Irish Horizons.
The addition of Irish Welcome Tours-owned California-based online travel agency Authentic Vacations provides Hotels & More with access to the US source market which complements its position in the German and French speaking source markets.
The Irish inbound travel market has rebounded since the recession, growing at 7.5% p.a. since 2010, and valued at about €4.6 billion last year.
This was driven by international air travel to Ireland growing at around 10% a year since 2013.
The outlook for the inbound group and individual travellers sector is seen as positive due to favourable macro-economic conditions, appeal of Ireland, government support for the aviation industry and shifts in core demographics combined with continued strength of group travel.
Irish Welcome Tours will continue to be managed independently by managing director John Waldron, who will work closely with his Hotels & More counterpart Karin Urban.
Urban said: “Ireland continues to be an exciting and sought after destination and with their local market expertise and reputation we view Irish Welcome Tours as the perfect partner.
“Together we will continue to grow our market position delivering innovative products and services for our clients across our family of brands.”
Waldron added: “The partnership will allow us much broader access to the UK market, which we can offer to our clients in Europe and America.
“Having boots on the ground in both Ireland and the UK will allow our clients to be the first to hear about new products, more favourable allocations, preferential prices and of course a team of local experts based on site.
“This a hand in glove marriage, an exciting step in the evolution of our business and we are enthusiastic about the future opportunities available to both parties resulting from the partnership.”