Cruise.co.uk managing director Chris Gardner has been appointed chief executive of the online travel agency as Seamus Conlon steps down.

Gardner joined Cruise.co.uk last year from consumer advice specialist Which? where he spent 12 years, working as managing director.

In addition to his chief executive role, Gardner will also continue to hold the position of managing director, Cruise.co.uk said.

Conlon, who held the Cruise.co.uk chief executive role for 15 years, is taking up a new position as non-executive director of the company as he looks to pursue other interests.

Cruise.co.uk was formed in 2007 after Conlon led a management buyout from Carnival Corporation.

Since then, Cruise.co.uk has had three private equity backers – Forward Group, Risk Capital Partners and Bridgepoint, which invested in 2016.

During his time as chief executive, Conlon oversaw the acquisition of German cruise OTA Kreuzfahrtberater.de, in a deal totalling €25 million, in 2017.

Last year, Conlon appointed Frank Riecke as managing director of the Kreuzfahrtberater.de and Gardner as managing director of Worcestershire-based Cruise.co.uk.

Conlon said: “It has been a great journey and pleasure to build and lead Cruise.co over the last 15 years, but now I feel it is a good time to take a supporting role.

“I am immensely proud of what we have built at Cruise.co, but I know Chris and the team will take it even greater success.”

Gardner said: “I am absolutely delighted to be the new chief executive of this fantastic organisation, and I can’t wait to help guide it through the next stages of its growth and development.”

More: Big Interview: Seamus Conlon, chief executive of Cruise.co.uk

Special Report: Cruise.co.uk charts course for growth in UK and Germany [February 18]

Cruise.co.uk appoints former Which? chief as UK MD [September 18]

Cruise.co.uk secures £52m private equity funding [August 16]