Chief executive Peter Healey plans to better integrate the brands across his diverse portfolio. Lucy Huxley reports
The Vertical Group founder and owner Peter Healey plans to restucture the many disparate brands under his control and apply for a group Atol.
Healey founded The Vertical Group in 1981. He’s probably best-known for owning travel technology company Vertical Systems but his business extends much further – from retailing and homeworking to running a bed bank, a transfer company and a tour operation.
From May 1, The Vertical Group will undergo a structural change, with all the brands brought together more formally.
Healey said: “I own all these businesses, but if I make them a group, I can get a group Atol and we can produce one set of accounts, and have much more cohesion, making it easier for me to operate the business.
“I used to have my own Atol but the new Atol regulations are so murky that I moved Miss Ellies into Freedom’s Atol. But when the mud settles over the Atol situation, I imagine I will have to reapply for my own Atol. I am hoping I can do this before the summer.”
Your Holiday Booking
Your Holiday Booking is a portfolio of hotels and travel products.
It was set up nine years ago when Sani Hotels in Halkidiki, seeking more control over distribution, approached Healey. He started selling Sani to agents in the UK and now does the same for other four and five-star properties including Forte Village, Middle East Collection, Daios Cove and Domes of Elounda in Crete, the Grecotel properties in Greece, Marbella Beach in Corfu, Skiathos Princess and many more.
Healey’s focus for 2015 is to encourage his hotel partners to improve revenue by offering more higher‑value rooms and family rooms and let Your Holiday Booking sell clients and upgrade.
“People are far more likely to upgrade two weeks before they travel than when they arrive in reception and just want to get to their room and unpack,” he said.
Bedbank and Transfers4Travel
Vertical Group operates Bedbank, a trading name of Your Hotel Integration, offering 12,000 directly contracted upmarket properties, having ditched all two and three‑star properties.
This year, Vertical Group will integrate its private transfer business, Transfers4Travel, with Bedbank, to avoid all the “frustrating issues of the unknown using an intermediary”, according to Healey. “Whether it’s child seats, seatbelts or enough room for luggage – we are now making it a much more important part of what we offer on all properties.”
Vertical Group rescued the Amathus Holidays brand from the ashes of the collapsed Preston Travel Group last March. Since then, it has been trading under The Midcounties Co-operative’s Atol. Healey said the Cyprus and Greece specialist fitted well with Vertical’s Cyprus wedding experts and its luxury weddings and honeymoons experts.
“We don’t do nearly enough cruise,” said Healey. “We are seeing cruise being sold more through Holiday Experts, and we are going to start a cruise division in Holiday Elite shortly. The working title is Cruising Elite and they will be cruise specialists – our first one has just started and we will be looking for five by the end of the year. It will become a member of Clia.”
Vertical Group owns the Holiday Experts homeworking brand.
Healey said: “We have 46 agents in Holiday Experts and we would like to double that.”
He said agents are either ‘indoor’ or ‘outdoor’ people.
“Indoor people wait for the phone to ring,” he said. “Outdoor people go out and find clients at shows, local events etc. These agents are replacing the traditional type.
“The most important thing for the future is building personal relationships – there is still a massive opportunity for people who can market themselves.”
Best For Travel and Miss Ellies Travel
Vertical has two retail businesses. Ireland-based Best For Travel is finding success through kiosks in new shopping malls, and are on average generating €1 million in business.
Best For Travel has 10 kiosks, each employing two to three members of staff but without any overheads for rent and rates. Miss Ellies is a one-unit shop in Urmston, which Healey said he might look to relocate to central Manchester next year.
Clients of Vertical Systems’ technology platforms include Tui Travel and Thomas Cook.
Talking of technical challenges, Healey said: “The challenge for us and anyone in the online market is producing something that people want to use on phones, phablets and tablets etc.
We’re working on that, and on a PCI (payment card industry) compliance solution for homeworkers and for those selling over the phone.”
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