Flight Centre, one of the world's largest travel companies, has bought the corporate travel business of the group that owns Abbey Travel. It has also flagged that it intends to open a new retail chain of travel agencies in Ireland.
Flight Centre, which is headquartered and listed in Australia, has paid about €1.4 million for Dublin company Travel Plan Corporate, according to filings in recent days in the Companies Registration Office. Travelplan Corporate was a sister business of Abbey Travel, the retail travel business owned by Travelplan Partners. Abbey was founded more than three decades ago by former Ryan Hotels executive Con Horgan.
The corporate business contributed about 60 per cent of the group's overall sales of about €50 million. The business being sold has about 50 staff and trades as FCm Ireland, an existing partnership with FCm Travel Solutions, the corporate travel arm of Flight Centre. The Irish Times was unable to contact Con Horgan or Abbey Travel managing director Neil Horgan over the weekend.
The Australian business will now take full control of the Irish FCm operation. The retail business of Abbey Travel is unaffected and will continue to trade separately under its existing Irish ownership.
Flight Centre chief executive Graham Turner told investors last week that the transaction was a cost-effective, profitable and a low-risk entry to the Irish corporate travel market.
“In particular, we can see great potential in developing close ties between Flight Centre’s UK and Ireland corporate travel businesses and implementing the strategies that have underpinned the company’s success in the UK,” he said.
“There is potential to launch a retail travel business in Ireland in the future to operate alongside the local corporate travel businesses, mirroring the strategy we have successfully adopted in Asia and the Middle East in recent years,” he added.
The entry of the Australian giant into the Irish retail travel agency market would put pressure on some indigenous operators, who have been closing many of their high street outlets in recent years.
Flight Centre has more than 2,500 outlets in 10 countries, including a significant business in the UK that will be closely aligned to its new Irish operation. Last year it sold more than AUS $14 billion (€9.35 billion) worth of holidays, its annual report said.