Ready for summer: 6 PE-backed deals in the recovering travel sector

PAI Partners, Triton and Inflexion are among the PE firms that are investing in the leisure and travel segments.

The World Tourism Organization predicts that international tourist arrivals could reach 80-90 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Private equity firms have taken note, as deals in the sectors of leisure and travel are picking up.

Ranging from campsites to luxury holidays, there are options for all kinds of travellers looking for a break.

Here are six deals that caught the attention of PE Hub Europe (in reverse chronological order):

1. PAI Partners makes offer to buy The Looping Group

PAI Partners made a binding offer in early May to acquire The Looping Group, a pan-European leisure park operator, from Mubadala Capital’s private equity business and Bpifrance, the French national investment bank.

PAI will partner with Looping’s existing management team to drive organic growth and add to the group’s portfolio of leisure parks, according to a release.

“Positioned in the resilient budget leisure segment, the group is well placed to benefit from long-term tailwinds that underpin the local leisure park market,” said Bertrand Monier, a partner at PAI Partners.

2. Vitruvian-backed Travel Counsellors bags Holidaysplease

Vitruvian Partners-backed Travel Counsellors acquired Holidaysplease, an online travel company, in early March.

Holidaysplease is headquartered in Birmingham in the UK. The firm recorded total transaction value of over £40 million ($50 million; €47 million) in 2022.

Travel Counsellors’ acquisition of Holidaysplease was its first in nearly 30 years. The firm reported £114 million of sales on its platform and it generated £86.3 million of sales in February, a 22 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

3. PAI Partners and ECG go glamping with Vacanceselect

PAI Partners-backed European Camping Group (ECG) completed the acquisition of mobile home operator Vacanceselect in February. The deal has an enterprise value of €1 billion, according to sources close to the matter.

PE Hub Europe talked about the deal in depth in an exclusive interview with PAI partner Bertrand Monier and ECG president Alain Calmé.

“The industry started as a very fragmented one,” said Monier. “Private equity has been an enabler for management teams, basically to consolidate regional champions and now European champions.”

4. Inflexion bids adieu to luxury travel operator Scott Dunn

In January, Inflexion sold its investment in Scott Dunn, a provider of luxury holidays, to Flight Centre Travel Group (FLT), a listed travel agency in Australia.

FLT acquired Scott Dunn for an enterprise value of £121 million, as per FLT’s statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“The business has come out of the pandemic in a strong position and is well placed to continue to grow further in the UK and across the globe,” said Simon Turner, managing partner at Inflexion.

5. Kings Park Capital exits Lakeshore Leisure Group 

In November, Kings Park Capital (KPC) announced its exit from Lakeshore Leisure Group (LLG) to a new UK subsidiary of Capfun, a pan-European operator of 175 family-focused holiday parks and campsites.

The exit to Mouans-Sartoux-headquartered Capfun delivered a money multiple of 3x and an IRR of 46 percent for KPC’s investors.

With the backing of KPC, LLG bought four sites in Devon, England: Otter Falls, Clawford Lakes, Lakeview Manor and Clovelly Falls.

6. Triton-backed Sunweb deal for Airtours takes flight

In another November deal, Triton-backed Sunweb Group acquired travel operator Airtours.

Stockholm-based Airtours provides weekend trips and sun holiday charter packages. It is the largest Swedish-owned travel operator with approximately 100,000 travellers annually, according to Triton.

Triton acquired Zürich-based Sunweb, a European travel operator, in February 2019.

PE Hub Europe expects to see even more deals in the leisure and travel segments in the coming months.