Leger Holidays has appointed former James Villas chief executive and TV Travel Shop managing director Tony Wheble as managing director.
Wheble joined the escorted tours operator last week after a short period as a consultant to the private equity and banking sectors, and has been brought in to spearhead a new phase of growth.
He told Travel Weekly that his focus would be on “raising standards, product innovation and supporting the trade”.
“We think we’re the best at what we do, but we have some good competitors, so I need to ensure I raise standards across the board,” said Wheble. “That includes innovating the product that we are offering because consumers don’t stand still, so nor can businesses.”
Wheble added: “We recently introduced our Luxuria product, which is unique and has given agents something different to sell to customers. It’s like a business-class service in escorted touring – most coaches have 50 seats but our Luxuria coaches have just 28.”
He said he would also expand the range of tours and destinations offered by Leger which currently cover everything from touring and cruising – both ocean and river – to Battlefield tours, trips to Disneyland Paris and tours to the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“Our product range and customer base is really diverse and we need to ensure we continue to develop it,” he said.
Wheble said supporting agents was also a priority, and not just existing retail partners. “I am committed to developing our business across all platforms and believe we should be growing sales through the trade as we expand our portfolio,” he said.
“We’re bedded in with traditional agents but not so much with the big OTAs and the homeworking networks. I plan to talk to all agency groups – ones we work with and those we don’t yet – and ask them what they need from us.”
Wheble, who is also chairman of luxury tailor-made specialist Original Travel, started his career in the media but switched to the travel industry in 1999 as managing director of TV Travel Shop.
He added: “I used to be the MD of TV Travel Shop, so I’ve been an agent and had to build relationships with tour operators so I could understand their product completely and sell it correctly.”
Wheble joined James Villas as managing director before acquiring the business in a management buyout. He sold the business to Wyndham Worldwide in 2011.
“I’ve been looking for a new operational role with a tour operator that has a quality and differentiated product offering, in a growth market. Leger Holidays has those characteristics, as well as a forward thinking owner in Ian Henry and a talented and dedicated team.
“I’m looking forward to working closely with Ian and helping to develop the business across our existing product portfolio, as well as expanding our product offering into new areas”.
Henry said: “Our business has continued to flourish despite the challenging economic climate in recent years.
“I thought that it was an appropriate time for us to bolster our senior team to help maximise the growth potential that exists in our sector, especially with the launch of our new Luxuria product and the growth of our other core Escorted Tours portfolio.
“Tony has good experience of building strong client-focused travel brands and a very good understanding of modern day tour operating. He is a talented marketer as well as being exceptionally commercial. He will be a great addition to our team.”
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