WTM 2018: AC Group targets outbound growth after adding destinations

B2B wholesaler and Destination Management Company (DMC) AC Group is aiming to double its UK outbound businesses after expanding its portfolio.

The firm, which acquired MW Tours and French Travel Partners last year, has started offering trips in France, Benelux and north America.

On top of core destinations Iceland, Ireland and Germany, AC expects to see £11 million of sales for its new countries with New York, Paris and Miami expected to be popular.

AC Group also anticipates increased demand for travel from other growing markets such as Israel, the Far East and southeast Asia.

Rob Russell, joint-chief executive, said AC Group prides itself on the service it offers its trade clients like Audley Travel, Emirates Holidays and Travel Counsellors.

“We would be looking to see UK outbound double in the next couple of months. A concern for us is the Brexit effect but we are waiting to see what happens.

“When we had the referendum we saw a huge spike in business primarily due to the drop in the value of the pound. We’re waiting to see how that affects us next year.

“What you see in the market are all the bed banks buying each other’s product an sharing a small pot of margin as they all fight over the same client.

“Where we differentiate ourselves is on service. When you buy through a bed bank it might come from another bed bank and if something goes wrong you have this chain and no one takes responsibility.

“We are a purely B2B brand. If everything goes well we are invisible and we don’t sell anything we haven’t used ourselves. Everything is quality checked.”

As well as hotel beds AC Group contracts bespoke attractions, transfers and tickets like behind-the-scenes tours and private dining to provide unique product to its partners.

“We now have a product team which rivals the size of our contracting team. More and more guests want to stay longer in places and explore the local area,” Russell said.

AC Group was established in 1999 and is privately owned. It has three brands: AC Tours, which specialises in UK accommodation, transfers, tickets and meals for overseas visitors; AC Online, a B2B supplier to internationally-based wholesalers and tour; and AC Luxe, a full-service DMC providing tailor made trips to travellers in the UK, Ireland, France and the US.

Russell added: “After almost 20 years of providing top customer service to agents and wholesalers bringing visitors to the UK and Ireland, we’re excited to expand our portfolio.

“From speaking with our clients, we know there’s a need for a high-quality service aimed at groups in our new destinations – from school trips and sports teams, through to blue-chip business incentive trips – and we’re thrilled to now offer extensive experiences into France and North America.”

Malcolm Lindop, joint chief executive added: “The programming of new destinations allows us to strengthen our relationships with existing partners, as well as reach new clientele.

“We are delighted to be working with organisations such as Travel Counsellors and Opportunity Travel to offer increasingly global group and bespoke travel solutions.

“Having experts in-market for both France and North America helps to ensure the new destinations will live up to the service and experience levels our travel industry partners expect from AC Group.”

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