Thomas Cook buys luxury holiday firm

Bespoke holiday firm Elegant Resorts was in new hands today after being snapped up by travel giant Thomas Cook.

Founding shareholders Geoff Moss and Barbara Catchpole have sold the business for an undisclosed sum.

Launched in 1988, Chester-based Elegant Resorts sends holidaymakers to far-flung destinations such as private African game reserves and exclusive Caribbean retreats.

The firm's packages feature luxuries such as helicopter transfers and champagne on arrival, and last year catered for more than 20,000 travellers.

Thomas Cook said it planned to run the business as a standalone unit with the current management team remaining in place.

Group chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa said the deal bolstered the company's position in a "lucrative and growing segment" of the travel market.

He added: "Elegant Resorts has a very strong brand name, associated with luxury, style and bespoke holidays and fully supports our strategic aim to become a leading independent travel provider."

Elegant Resorts currently has 160 staff, with three overseas offices in Barbados, Dubai and Mauritius. Last year it had total gross assets of £22.3 million.

Chairman Mr Moss and PR director Ms Catchpole are the main shareholders, with other staff also holding shares.

Thomas Cook currently operates in the luxury holiday market through its Latitude and Thomas Cook Signature brands.

The deal follows the £21.8 million paid by the travel giant hotel for booking website in February, which boosted its presence in the independent travel sector.

Broker Numis Securities said the Elegant buy was "sensible" and that similar deals could follow.

Analyst Wyn Ellis said: "The transaction will help to diversify the group's product mix, the majority of which currently represents mainstream packaged holidays.

"We expect the group to continue to make similar-sized acquisitions in the independent travel market."

Thomas Cook shares were up nearly 1% today.