Special Report: Travelsphere targets trade in new marketing strategy

Travelsphere and Just You were bought by G Adventures in January. The management team tells Juliet Dennis about their plans to reposition the business with a trade focus

Travelsphere has announced a major “repositioning” which will make agents significantly more central to the business.

The operator and sister brand Just You were bought by G Adventures in January after previous parent All Leisure Holidays went into administration.

A new logo and website are being rolled out alongside a radically redesigned brochure, while a two-week merchandising blitz next month will see the operator visit almost 1,000 agents nationwide in its biggest trade marketing campaign.

The company’s tagline has changed from Experience More to Holiday of a Lifetime Every Time.

It follows a business review under managing director Alastair Campbell, who joined in April.

He said: “Travelsphere was underinvested in and one of the things we identified was that it was seriously underselling. We almost made an assumption people wanted to buy from us.”

Currently the trade makes up 11%-12% of sales. Agent sales are up by 13% this year and by 33% for next year.

Campbell believes there is an opportunity to double trade sales within 12 to 18 months. “We are looking at the travel trade as a proper opportunity. The trade was not critical to the business until now. We have completely redesigned our brochures with the trade in mind and made a substantial investment in sales and marketing,” he said.

Although trade sales are healthy, there is a lack of awareness about its product range, according to sales director Colin Wilson. “The perception was we just did touring. There was a lack of understanding of how many single-centre holidays we have, for example,” he said.

The operator’s repositioning will see it focus on new messages to the trade. Rather than promoting discounts, it will highlight new guarantees on all departures.

Wilson said the operator would work harder on existing agent relationships and do more joint marketing and events.

As well as a new-look brochure, a new website with enhanced search capability will be promoted and more agent fam trips are promised.

G Adventures eyes cross-selling opportunities

G Adventures’ acquisition of Travelsphere has increased confidence in the brand, according to managing director Alastair Campbell.

He said: “There is a huge amount of confidence in G Adventures and that has helped. We told agents [about the ownership change] at the end of January and that gave clarity. Trade business went quiet for about four weeks but then it came rocketing back.”

Travelsphere continues to be run as a separate business under G Adventures’ ownership but has begun to look at cross-selling opportunities. G Adventures’ expedition ship’s itineraries in the Norwegian fjords will be in Travelsphere’s new brochure.

“This is the only product we have taken from G Adventures. We have swapped a lot of knowledge about Travelsphere products and we are looking at others,” said Campbell.

Travelsphere has an average customer age of 55-60, about 10-15 years older than G Adventures’. It carries about 35,000 passsengers a year.

Operator fuses range into single brochure

Travelsphere has combined its product range into one Europe and Worldwide brochure, with nine new tours for 2018.

For the past few years, the operator has had two programmes.

There are guaranteed departures across all its tours and it is putting more emphasis on its price-match offer. This promises to hand out £100 if an identical holiday is found for less.

Tours have been recategorised into ‘relaxed’, ‘classic’ and ‘active plus’, and an index lists every departure by tour type and inclusions. Marketing director Nicole Mason said: “It’s about making it easy for the agent. We’re now focusing on ‘book early for the best price’.”