Luxury operator Scott Dunn is absorbing its Imagine Travel brand into its main brand and website as it looks to “survive and thrive” post pandemic.

The direct-sell business is also having “active discussions” about opening up the sale of its exclusive ‘Explorers’ kids’ club holidays for sale through travel agents.

Chief executive Sonia Davies said both moves were designed to help the business recover and return to growth as soon as possible.

“Covid has smacked us all around. But it’s not just about surviving. It’s about surviving and thriving,” she said.

“We could have just stayed under the table, but we knew that the markets were going to drop and so very early on, we said ‘How do we navigate through this?’. ‘What are the five things we’re going to focus on and in what order?’”

She said merging her two brands was one option, and added: “How could we afford to keep investing across two brands when essentially their DNA is the same?”

Davies said that had she suggested bringing Scott Dunn and Imagine Travel together pre-Covid, she would “probably have caused a riot”.

But with the business having to reduce its headcount by between 30% and 40% because of the pandemic, the two teams had worked much closer together, which had seen “internal cultural barriers just disappear”.

“There were such strong cultural feelings inside our business for each brand – our teams were each so passionate. But all customers are looking for is expertise. Someone who can design a trip that is perfect for them – and that’s the ethos that underpins both brands and both sales teams,” she said.

“So the pandemic forced the issue, but it make sense. The world and our guest base have moved on, so we have to react to that and remain relevant. I joined Scott Dunn two years ago from outside travel so it’s easier for me to come in, look at things and say: ‘What’s the right thing to do?’.”

Despite the changes, Davies said the Imagine branding would not completely disappear.

“I didn’t want to just close Imagine. We are sunsetting the Imagine website and from early December, all our holidays will be sold under the Scott Dunn brand, but we are picking all the great product from the Imagine programme and bringing it across,” she said.

“Now, instead of pigeon-holing our customers, they can choose a style of  holidays that’s a bit more of the traditional luxury they might expect from Scott Dunn, or a more off-the-beaten track experience, that goes a bit deeper into a destination, which is what they would have got from Imagine.”

She explained that new sign-posting had been added to the site to help loyal Imagine customers find an ‘Imagine’ style holiday in each destination.

“So on the Vietnam destination page, there will be an ‘Imagine Vietnam’ tab,” she said.

Separately, Davies confirmed that selling Scott Dunn’s exclusive Explorers Kids’ Club programmes through the trade was “one of the things under consideration”.