Pictured: Steve Byrne

Almost half of what leading home working travel agency Travel Counsellors sells is directly contracted through its in-house booking technology Phenix.

The private equity-backed Manchester-based firm, currently subject to take over speculation, has seen the proportion of its business in Phenix hit 44%.

And the firm says it has plans to boost this further as it brings in more directly contracted hotels and sources more product like tours and excursions from Destination Management Companies.

Travel Counsellors told franchisees during the series of mini-conferences in the UK in April it plans to add 250 directly contracted hotels on to the system by the end of August.

The agency has agreed special value-add deals with its 50 top selling hotels and the number of DMCs it now deals with directly is 27.

Travel Counsellors bookings with DMCs are 52% up in India, 38% up in Asia and 35% up in South America. A further four partnerships in Germany, Africa, Iceland and the US have been agreed.

Overall the firm reported that sales through Phenix, which allows its agents to offer bespoke holidays and to control their own margin are up 40% year on year.

Business coach Donna Dodd told agents at the conferences: “Using Phenix means you are in complete control of the customer experience, and can craft itineraries that cannot be sourced anywhere else.

“By tailor-making in this way, and using our direct product and access to DMC, you are creating added value for your customers and extra value for yourself.

“We are working to provide even more product while always ensuring those we partner with reflect the levels of service we expect for you and your customers.”

Steve Byrne, chief executive, said when GDS airlines fares sold through Phenix are taken into account only 40% of what the agency sells is pre-packaged tour operator product.

This means that 60% of sales are on product bought in on net rates or on top of which Travel Counsellors adds a fee, like low cost flights.

Byrne said the firm will always sell a proportion of operator product on which it earns commission but only where the supplier or wholesaler adds value to the experience.

He said as Travel Counsellors continues to grow the absolute level of operator sales could go up although the proportion of in-house sales is like to rise further before stabilising.

“Tour operators that add to the experience of the customer and the travel counsellor will still be able to have a lucrative future with us,” he said.

“The absolute level of what we do will go on increasing because as a company we are still growing. But the percentage of what we sell when we are in control of our own margin will carry on increasing.”

Byrne said DMC-sourced sales is the fastest-growing part of the business and it has been receiving good feedback from its agents.

He said it allows its franchisees to offer additional experiences in destination like ground transportation and excursions and activities.

The product is also available to the firm’s corporate travel counsellors who want to add a leisure travel experience to a business trip.