01 October 2007

You can't keep the good ones down

The travel industry is in a continual, and quite fast-paced, state of churn (so too is the closely-related travel PR industry). What I mean is, the same faces appear and reappear in new locations all the time as their careers take them from one company to another.

(which reminds me. I must apologise to the woman I saw a few days ago who, I had completely forgotten, has just moved from a well-known travel PR company to become the in-house PR for a very well-known tour operator. She looked at me rather strangely because I had been in her office only a few weeks ago when she was physically getting ready to leave & start work at the new place.... so how could I get confused about it!!! Dummkopf!)

Anyway, there is another similar and concurrent process at work in the travel industry - the re-appearance of travel innovators.

These are people who create unique and flourishing, small independent specialist travel companies which then get gobbled up by large travel companies. After a short while (usually after the competitive trade restriction clause in the sale contract has timed out) they pop to the surface again like corks.

Obvious examples include people like Graham Simpson, the man behind the hugely successful Simply Travel. A year or two after it was bought (in 1999) by TUI/Thomsons, up popped Mr Simpson with a fresh new company called Simpson Travel.

Another would be Edward Maquis, the guy behind International Chapters, the specialists in sumptuous holiday rental properties in glamorous destinations. Abercrombie & Kent swooped down on that one in 2002 (I notice they've dropped the 'Chapters' part of the brand. The portfolio seems to be fully swallowed up by the A&K brand now.) Meanwhile, these days Edward Maquis can be found running a new holiday rental company called The Villa Book.

I mention this because this morning I received an email newsletter from an up-market travel agency/operator that I had not encountered before. To my surprise and delight it turns out that In-Style Travel, and its sub-brand In-style Opera (there was my first clue) , is the creation of Andrew Blair and his associate Jeanette Garrad.

Andrew is well-known in the industry as the founder of Travel for the Arts, one of the best-known and most successful arts & music specialist tour operators. (It's a small sector. He and at least two of his leading competitors all used to work together as juniors at a third!) Now Travel for the Arts is a brand of Specialised Travel ltd.

Which leaves me wondering when Christopher Kirker, founder of the independent short break specialist Kirker Holidays, will surface in a new guise. Last time I heard he was still acting as a consultant for them, but you can't keep the good ones down for long.

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