Southall Travel overcame a 20% hike in costs caused by Brexit to post a record rise in revenues last year after increasing staff bonuses.
Chief executive Kuljinder Bahia told last week’s Barclays Travel Forum he personally insisted on no redundancies or cuts in salaries following last June’s referendum.
In the aftermath of last June’s EU referendum, Southall Travel was hit by a 20% slump in the value of the pound against the Indian rupee, the currency in which much of its wage bill is paid.
“I have never cut salaries or bonuses; people have their mortgages to pay. It’s not the right way,” Bahia said.
Bahia ordered management to increase bonuses but insisted employees were made aware the firm had a problem and they needed to work harder.
“Not in the number of hours they worked, but in commitment,” added Bahia. “Last year we saw our biggest-ever growth and I did not have to hire anyone extra.”
Southall Travel’s turnover is said to have “grown by £100 million to £600 million” for the year to March 31, 2017. Official annual results have yet to be published but this would be the biggest annual rise in its 20-year history, wiping out the currency hit. In 2015-16 the firm made a £21 million pre-tax profit on a turnover of £472 million.
Bahia also revealed Southall Travel is poised to launch student travel and sports travel divisions, and to grow its short-haul range.
He admitted he does not have a name for the student division yet as he looks for website domain names, although he said it will be up and running within three months.
The sports division, which he also hopes to launch later this year, will be called ST Sports.
Southall Travel spent £12 million on sports advertising last year with the English Premier League and Sky Sports for its coverage of India’s IPL cricket tournament.
A move to increase Southall’s presence in short-haul was a reaction to April booking patterns, added Bahia, as its customers demand more European holidays.
Southall Travel will move from Iver, Buckinghamshire, into new headquarters in London’s Mayfair this month, a decision prompted by the need to find the right talent to bring into the business, Bahia said.
“To continue to grow I have to get more talented people around me and there is a bigger talent pool in London,” he said.
Bahia said it had been an ambition to be based in a part of London where many of Southall’s airline partners have offices. He added: “In Iver I can do maybe one or two meetings a day; in London I can do five or six, so the output will increase.”
Southall Travel was originally set up to serve the significant visiting friends and family market among the Asian community in west London with a single store in Southall, which it still operates.
Today, the group has corporate and luxury travel divisions, online retail brands, and operates trade aggregator The Holiday Team.
Asked how his business has changed over the years, Bahia said: “When I started we had a £500,000 turnover and I nearly sold the business for £20,000.
“You have to understand the basics, you have to be different.
“We have been changing and adapting as we go.”
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