The clever insight that many holidaymakers are more concerned with what they do, rather than where they go, has propelled this online travel agent to eye-catching profits in a remarkably short time.
Founded in 2012 by chief executive Alex Francis, 43, chief operating officer Jonny Marsh, 43, and chief financial officer Chris McCavert, 39, the London-based company specialises in providing short and medium-haul beach holidays to classic destinations, such as Crete, Majorca, and the Costa del Sol.
What makes Loveholidays different is its proprietary “discovery search” technology.
Rather than simply selecting destinations and dates, customers can, instead, choose from a range of criteria — including daily costs, type of trip, temperature, and facilities — and are presented with a list of holiday packages that match their wishes.
The technology attracts customers at an earlier stage of the buying process, when they haven’t yet decided where they want to go. It helps Loveholidays to act as a travel adviser, as well as a booking platform, by providing customers with information and suggestions that are specifically tailored to their interests.
The company says it carefully curates its search criteria using website analytics, as customers prefer not to be overwhelmed with options.
It has a dedicated Irish website, and offers UK customers four flexible payment methods, including a pay monthly option, another novel concept in a highly-competitive industry.
The co-founders’ innovation has paid off. Prior to Loveholidays, Francis and Marsh launched a holiday search engine, Travel Match, using their existing startup experience, and web and marketing expertise, but with their new company, built using new technology, they appear to have struck gold.
Last year, they sold a majority stake to Livingbridge in a deal that valued the business at a reported £180m.
The private equity firm has experience in the sector, having previously backed Profit Track 100 alumnus On the Beach as well as Direct Ferries, and its investment is already being used to fuel further growth through increased customer acquisition and repeat bookings. Loveholidays now employs 300 people and is licenced to carry 1.1m passengers a year. It sold more than £500m worth of holidays in 2018 and earned commissions of £64.4m. Profits hit £13.4m, having risen an average of 191% a year since 2015.
What next for the founders? All retain significant shares in the company and lead the executive team. They plan to continue to invest in technology to disrupt the travel sector by providing customers with new degrees of booking flexibility.
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