Paul Furner, Chris Waite and Kane Pirie have travelled a long way since their days as computing students at the University of East Anglia. Physically, they may have moved only as far as the London suburbs, but after the management buyout of Travel Republic earlier this year, they are now the sole owners of a business that sells more than £200m of holidays to the British public every year. Their computing background has not been wasted. While demand for package holidays has been broadly flat, Travel Republic’s impressive growth has been largely driven by sales of flights, hotels and car hire through its website and call centres. The company offers 200 destinations and 30,000 hotels. It works with 75 schedule airlines, 25 charter airlines and 10 low-cost airlines, with flights to Spain and Greece proving the most popular. The company makes its money by charging hotels and airlines a commission on each booking. Customers are encouraged to post reviews of their travel experience on the website, and the company claims that 40% of its business now comes from repeat business and customer referrals. Travel Republic has grown at a breakneck pace. It was set up by Furner and Waite in 2003 to develop software and systems for a travel agency owned by Furner’s brother Peter. By 2005 Pirie had been lured back from a private-equity job in Germany and the agency had been absorbed into Travel Republic. The company defines its sales as the money it earns in commission and this has risen 284% a year since it started trading, from an annualised £258,000 in 2004 to £14.6m in 2007.
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