Private equity firm Silverfleet Capital has bought a majority stake in river cruise and escorted tours specialist operator Riviera Travel.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, is expected to be completed shortly and will see Riviera invest in its direct sales channels and new ship orders and was described by the operator as a “huge opportunity” for the trade.

It comes less than six months after its majority stakeholder Phoenix Equity Partners hired professional services firm PwC to look for new investment and was tipped to attract investment of up to £250 million.

Phoenix Equity Partners acquired its majority stake in 2014 from founder Michael Wright in a deal thought to be worth around £120 million.

Founded in 1984 and based in Burton-on-Trent in the UK, Riviera is a leading operator of escorted tours with a focus on the over-55s market.

It provides European tour holidays, river and ocean cruises, city breaks, solo travel, weekend breaks and long-haul tours with itineraries combining leisure with education and entertainment.

Riviera currently offers tours and cruises to 140 destinations across 50 countries and has more than 118,000 customers per year.

The companies say Silverfleet Capital’s investment will “enable Riviera to accelerate its growth trajectory by focusing on developing the direct to consumer channel”, increase its river capacity through investing in new ships, expand its US customer base and “use its strong brand to help develop new holidays and experiences”.

David Clemson, chief executive of Riviera, said: “We will continue to evolve our escorted tours and river cruises and build on our unique quality and value proposition, not to mention high levels of repeat business, making this a huge opportunity for our travel agent partners.

“Riviera is now positioned as a premium tour operator for the over 55-year-old consumer. Having managed the development of the business over the past nine years, I look forward to leading Riviera through its next phase of growth.

“Silverfleet Capital is a partner that comes with a significant and longstanding reputation for helping European businesses grow. With their support and substantial experience in the consumer sector we can successfully achieve our goals and develop the company further.”

The investment is the sixth completed by Silverfleet in its current fund, and the second within retail, leisure and consumer, a sector where the firm has been investing since 1990. Silverfleet specialises in buy-to-build acquisitions and its current portfolio companies are based in Denmark, Norway, France, the UK and Germany.

Gareth Whiley, partner at Silverfleet Capital with responsibility for Silverfleet’s investments in the retail, leisure and consumer sector, said: “Riviera is a high quality, well-established business with a strong brand and value proposition. Silverfleet has long been attracted to the travel sector and the growing demographic that Riviera serves. We are excited by the prospect of working closely with the highly experienced management team and using our knowledge of the sector to help Riviera continue to develop its brand and customer base.”