08 February 2008

Inntravel and the 'Circle of Life'

I've written about the 'cycle of life' for tour operators before. (eg. You can't keep the good ones down)


The 'up'...

The classic cycle is for a small niche operator to start out just doing one thing really well. As a result his clients come back to him. Then they ask if he could perhaps do what he does really well, somewhere else... a bit of variation. The business grows organically and develops a reputation for good service and excellent first-hand knowledge of their 'product'. At this point it probably joins the Association of Independent Tour Operators and becomes one of the elite!


The 'down'...

After a few years a big travel company seeking the kudos of a specialist brand with good reputation comes along and makes the owner an offer he/she cannot refuse. The brand gets subsumed into the parent company. The owner stays on as MD "with autonomy" (yeah! not!) or a'consultant', but sooner or later drifts away. Pretty quickly the individuality, enthusiasm and drive the 'brand' had, dissipates. The regular clients notice the difference and they too begin to drift away. After a few seasons the brand name is dropped and the programme gets integrated into the parent brand.


I've seen this pattern over and over again and I only mention it now because Inntravel have been an excellent specialist travel company for many years, which makes me sorry to hear they've just been bought by Inghams/Hotelpan. Inghams is a great travel company, but it is a big travel company. I fear Inntravel will never be the same again.

Ho hum... such is the circle of life.

Am I sorry? Yes.

Am I depressed? No.

The good thing is that exciting new specialist tour operators are being born all the time. In fact on this same day that news of the Inntravel sale comes through, I've also seen a birth announcement - a press release about Native Escapes, a new small group and tailor made tour operator launching high-quality safaris in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.

Yaaay! :}

No comments: