Ocean Holidays hits £1m earnings and plans for further growth

Ocean Holidays hits £1m earnings and plans for further growth

Destination specialist tour operator and accommodation wholesaler Ocean Holidays has launched a new brand for California having seen earnings grow by over 50% last year.

The Romford and Florida-based firm, a Travel Trust Association member which emerged from the failure of Como Street Travel in 2014, saw annual revenues hit £41 million in 2015.

In accounts filed at Companies House Ocean Holidays reported operating profit for the year of £292,000, up from £81,000 in 2014 and claimed earnings (EBITDA) of £1.03 million, up from £515,000.

Ocean Holidays includes brands Ocean Florida, a B2C specialist retailer, Ocean Beds a bed bank supplying tour operators and multi-destination and Winged Boots, a luxury bespoke tour operator.

The new Ocean California brand has been soft launched and will be rolled out over the next couple of months with the aim of hitting £2.5 million in revenue, 5% of the core Ocean Florida brand.

Joint managing director,Harry Hastings, who was recently named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Travel Hall of Fame, said the company was on track to hit £100 million in revenues by 2020.

“We’re delighted to not only be achieving healthy profits, but that all three businesses are delivering at a level we want them to be at, and we have the right infrastructure to grow this year and beyond,” he said.

Fellow managing director, Dan Ox, added: “We have three businesses; a bed bank, a luxury boutique division and a large independent Florida specialist. None are competitive and there’s crazy headroom in all of them.”

Hastings said Orlando was “booming” due to the amount of airlift being redirected from other parts of the world and substantial building projects bringing new apartments and properties on stream.

“It’s a booming destination right now,” he said. “That’s one reason we are growing.” Hastings estimated the firm has 2.5% of the UK Florida market of 1.5 million customers.

Later this year Ocean Holidays will move into a larger headquarters in Romford, Essex, having agreed a deal for a 12,000 square foot office, two-and-a-half times the size of its existing base.

The new offices are the largest in Romford and will enable the company to create 100 more call centre roles for its Florida business by 2018 alone. It currently employs 120 people in the UK.

Hastings said the main issue the firm has is recruiting enough staff and training them up to convert the leads the company generates. Ocean Holidays does not take online bookings.

Ox said: “We want to create a really modern working space, not just a classic call centre. We are investing heavily because we want to be a nice place to work. We appreciate now it’s more about lifestyle jobs and, like you see with firms like Google, you have to create enjoyable places for people to work in.”

A target has been set to grow Ocean Florida, which represents 85% of the business, by 25% in 2016. Hastings added: “Our constraints are the same as they were a year ago – recruitment and training. We don’t have a problem with generating leads.

“Our challenges are internal. We need to recruit faster and deploy people and turn prospects into customers quicker.”

To rectify this Ocean Holidays will bring in a new training programme designed to focus on “speed to competency” for its agents.

Hastings said it was looking to emulate the success seen at Audley Travel by sending new recruits to the destination they will specialist in as part of their induction.

As well as operating a successful apprenticeship scheme, which now accounts for 15% of the total payroll, the firm recruits experienced staff from high street agencies.

To scale its recruitment efforts, the company plans to create an internal team with professionals drawn from recruitment agencies targeted on numbers recruited and retention.

Winged Boots is looking to recruit “super agents” who can bring high net worth clients into the business and are capable of selling complex itineraries to high profile customers.

The specialist has grown largely through word of mouth among wealthy Essex residents, many of them celebrities and footballers, and is helping Ocean Holidays to diversify to other destinations.

Last year it grew revenues by 35%, when it did £8.5 million worth of business with just four sales staff, saw 100% growth in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 75% growth so far this year.

Hastings said: “We are actively looking for ‘super agents’ who have a little black book of contacts and who can sell luxury holidays.

“It’s about making sure we have the right people to service the clients. Our problem is finding people who can pick up the phone to a celebrity and at the same time put together a complex itinerary.”

Ocean Beds continues to grow and claims to be the largest wholesaler of holiday homes in Florida to the European market.

It supplies the likes of Funway, Travel 2, Getabed and Goodlife Florida Villas and is seeing more pre-allocation business, with 20% of bookings now “to the door” rather than allocation on arrival.

It has opened a larger 4,000 square foot visitor centre in Orlando and grown its quality control and health and safety team to four full time inspectors.

“If a travel agent is booking a villa with an operator there’s an advantage to making sure it’s with Ocean Beds because we have full health and safety systems in place and are market leaders in that field,” said Ox.

With the launch of Ocean California, the firm expects 20% of its contracting business to be in the west coast.


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