Last updated: 12:53 AM ET, Mon November 14 2016

Journeying Forward

Marc Kavanagh on what’s in store for agents following Journeys Connect's acquisition of Sceptre Tours.

Vacation Agent | Tour Operator | David Cogswell

Journeying Forward

PHOTO: The company’s portfolio of tours includes custom-guided vacations of Iceland. Pictured, Reykjavik.

Marc Kavanagh, owner and CEO of Journeys Connect, is a native of Ireland and a 28-year veteran of the travel industry. He worked with Brendan Vacations and Celtic Tours before founding Journeys Connect, which works exclusively with agents on a business-to-business basis.

Last summer, DH Enterprise agreed to sell Ireland and Europe specialist Sceptre Tours to Kavanagh. Sceptre sells custom-designed travel programs to Ireland, where it originated, and Europe. Sceptre President Chris Accomando, the son of the company’s founder, Bert Accomando, will stay on with Sceptre during the transition. Sceptre continues to be closely aligned with DH, which will continue to manage its technology and its vendor relationships in Europe.

Why did DH Enterprise spin off Sceptre?

DH Enterprise sold Sceptre to focus more on delivering distribution technologies. The company is moving away from the wholesale marketing of tours and travel packages, but continuing to work with tour operators as a technology provider and manager of destination resources.

Will DH and Sceptre continue to work together much as before?

DH is a big player on the technology side and will continue to do packaging for many other brands. While we are separately owned, DH will be very much involved in our business. We will be using their services and technology, including technology that we are now developing. It’s very exciting for me.

READ MORE: Untangling the Web of Journeys Connect's Acquisition of Spectre Tours 

In the fourth quarter we are on track for having our travel agency portal launched to make it possible for agents to buy packages online. Then we hope to launch our dynamic packaging functionality in the first quarter of 2017, giving travel agents the power to assemble their own custom packages, choosing from separate components. DH will be driving that part of the delivery systems for us.

How long will Chris Accomando stay on with Sceptre?

Sometime after a year Chris will move back to DH, which will focus on delivering distribution through technology. DH Enterprise will continue to operate the Aer Lingus Vacation Store, GreatValueVacations and Global Consolidated Services. It will also continue to manage our technology, our vendor contracts in Europe and our relationships with our air partners. We’re working with them now on technology that Chris and his team started.

What will be Sceptre’s role going forward?

Under its new ownership structure, Sceptre will continue to develop and offer custom crafted air-inclusive packages for FIT groups, as well as escorted tours, customized group vacations, chauffeur-drive vacations, bed and breakfast stays and rail vacations. We also offer Sceptre Golf. Our focus is on the deluxe side. We will put together products, they will manage those products and build them into their inventory systems and online portals. They will hold the inventory and settle invoices. DH is our solution on the technology side.

What does Journeys Connect comprise?

Journeys Connect is a specialty-groups operator that offers programs to all of continental Europe as well as England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Iceland. We are exclusively business-to-business. We don’t sell to the public. We work only with travel agents. We customize itineraries for big groups brought to us by travel agents. We also offer a set of scheduled departures to Germany, Austria, Croatia, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Our portfolio of group products includes a selection of escorted, guided and boutique vacations, and European river cruise itineraries. We offer expertise in creating imaginative and inspiring custom group journeys. Whether it is a family group enjoying a culinary experience in Tuscany, a small group of 14 on an experiential vacation in the U.K. or a group of 100 college football students in Spain, we have the experience and knowledge to take care of every aspect of group travel arrangements.

What special value does your company bring to travel agents?

We work only through travel agents and we like to build long-term relationships. We bring to the travel agent expertise, flexibility, reliability, and innovative products and services. We earn our travel agent partners’ trust and loyalty by listening to them, anticipating their needs and working to create value for them. We work through an established network of carefully chosen strategic business partners in destinations throughout Europe to provide innovative product, value and destination knowledge.

We are also working closely with DH to develop and deliver technology for our trade partners, including a travel agent portal and dynamic packaging on SceptreVacations.com. Going forward, the company will focus on new product development, working closely with travel agents to develop and grow our golf, chauffer and group business to its destinations in Europe. I’m excited to lead and implement the company’s plan for growth through strategic trade partnerships, further solidifying existing and potential relationships with travel agents and consortia.

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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the November 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.

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