Cycling specialist BSpoke Tours has started a travel agency division, selling a selection of “complementary” escorted tours.
The operator, which includes the Cycling for Softies brand, has 80 self-guided cycling and hiking tours in 12 European countries, and will now sell about 80 escorted tours from six partner operators: Explore, Exodus, Spice Roads, Club Med, Mark Warner and Camino Ways.
“We are competitors for self-guided tours, but hopefully we can become the ultimate travel agent to sell our partners’ guided group tours,” said Ben Roseveare, activities director at parent company Ski Solutions.
“Sometimes we get people coming to us who would be better suited to guided tours, and we’ve turned their business away.
“This gives us a guided tours offering and complements our existing products. It also gives us the ability to say we are in 50, rather than 12, countries.”
As an agent, BSpoke will sell a selection of its partners’ tours and avoid selling those similar to its own products or to regions where it already has a large programme, such as the south of France. It will package up partners’ tours with flights when necessary.
It won’t have walk-in shops but customers can make appointments at its head office in Battersea, London.
Since BSpoke launched the travel agency on May 1, 20% of sales have been of third-party suppliers. Roseveare said he hoped that growth would continue, as the brand aims to double its business in a year.
So far this financial year, BSpoke and Cycling for Softies have between them been trading 30%-40% ahead year on year.
BSpoke is looking to emulate the model of Ski Solutions, which is roughly 50% travel agent and 50% operator.
BSpoke’s tour operation has grown from 35 to 80 self-guided tours in the past year, 16 of which are Cycling for Softies branded. Roseveare said the operator was being “honest” about the fact that 90% of its sales were direct, but stressed BSpoke’s tour operation would remain “agent friendly”.
The “much more defined” sales team working on the activities side of the business has grown from four to eight since Roseveare joined nine months ago.
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