Club Travel, the Government's official travel agent, paid its owners, including veteran businessman Liam Lonergan, dividends of more than €830,000 last year, according to recently filed accounts.
Club Travel, which this month won a tender to manage all official State travel requirements, recorded a slide in sales for the 12 months to the end of October of €6 million to €80 million. A squeeze on costs, however, ensured that its profits fell by less than €1 million to €2.8 million.
The company, which claims to be the largest travel agent in the State, is now sitting on an enormous cash pile of almost €40 million, and accumulated profits of €28.8 million.
The group said it plans to “consolidate” its operations over the coming 12 months, indicating further expansion by it in the travel agency sector is unlikely for now. Club bought the Budget Travel name in 2010.
It also warned about traditional sales volumes coming under threat from the internet: “The group is facing continuing pressure on activity levels from the growth in generally available online travel facilities.”
Mr Lonergan, who was a founding director of Ryanair, founded Club Travel four decades ago. The accounts for the group show that, in addition to the dividends and other payments, he also received €93,000 in rent payments.
Simon Harris, Minister of State with responsibility for public procurement, announced two weeks ago that Club Travel had won an EU tender to manage all State travel. It had previously held a number of State contracts for more than a decade before losing out to another company two years ago.
The contract is for up to three years, and covers all air, rail, ferry and hotel bookings by the State.
The company trades as Club Travel from its central Dublin headquarters, as well as under the names of HRG Ireland, Travelcare, Destinations.ie, Go4less.ie and Regency Travel.