Last updated: 09:00 AM ET, Thu August 25 2016

Untangling the Web of the Sceptre Tours Acquisition

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | August 25, 2016

Untangling the Web of the Sceptre Tours Acquisition

This week we learned that DH Enterprise, the owner of Sceptre, agreed to sell the tour operator to Marc Kavanagh, the owner and CEO of Journeys Connect.

The acquisition weaves together several streams of history of the Ireland tour business in the U.S. Keeping track of all the separate strands that come together in this sale can be a little confusing. Here is an attempt to create a scorecard to help keep things straight.

The history of this acquisition ties together Sceptre Tours and Journeys Connect, but also ties in Celtic Tours, Brendan Vacations and others.

Here’s how it lays down.

Sceptre, known variously over the years as Sceptre Tours, Sceptre Vacations or just Sceptre, sells custom designed travel programs to Europe, with its major focus on Ireland, where it originated as an Ireland specialist.

Journeys Connect is a specialist in moving groups to Europe on a B2B basis, working exclusively through travel agents.

Chris Accomando, the son of the founder of Sceptre, who headed the operation for the last 11 years as president, will stay on with Sceptre during the transition for the next year or so.

Though Sceptre will be independently owned, it will still be closely aligned with DH, which will continue to manage its technology and its vendor relationships in Europe.

Marc Kavanagh told TravelPulse that DH Enterprise is spinning off Sceptre because it wants to focus more on delivering distribution technologies. DH 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.

Working through DH, Sceptre plans to open its online booking engine for travel agents in the fourth quarter of this year. In first quarter 2017, Sceptre hopes to introduce dynamic packaging to the online booking system, giving travel agents the power to assemble their own custom packages choosing from separate components.

The Roots of Sceptre

Sceptre Tours is owned and operated by the Accomando family as part of DH Enterprise. Besides Sceptre Tours, DH Enterprise is the parent company of Aer Lingus Vacation Store, GreatValueVacations and Global Consolidated Services, all of which the company will continue to operate.

Bert Accomando, now chairman of DH Enterprise’s board, founded the company that became Sceptre in 1981. Accomando operated a variety of businesses under various names, one of which was Fantasy Holidays, which primarily functioned as an ethnic charter company. Accomando bought Sceptre Tours in 1997 with the idea of starting a tour operator for Ireland.  

Bert’s son Chris grew up around the company and officially joined in 1998 and has headed the company as president for the past 11 years.

Marc Kavanagh

Marc Kavanagh, the purchaser of Sceptre, is a native of Ireland and a 28-year veteran of the travel industry.

Kavanagh followed the footsteps of the growing Ireland tourism industry to the U.S. and went to work for Ryanair, where he stayed for 11 years before taking a job with Brendan Tours.

Founded and owned by Ireland native Jimmy Murphy, Brendan Tours was one of the top tour operators to Ireland at the time and a pioneer of American tourism to Ireland.

Kavanagh worked from January 1996 to April 1998 for Brendan. Being at the epicenter of one of the most successful Ireland tour operators ever provided the perfect opportunity for Kavanagh to learn the complex ins and outs of the business of operating and marketing tours.

Brendan Vacations continues today as part of the Travel Corporation, utilizing the Ireland infrastructure originally built by Brendan Tours. It now operates as a sub-brand under Trafalgar.

In April 1998 Kavanagh joined Celtic Tours, another leader in Ireland tourism, and worked there for 11 years as director of sales and marketing. Working with founder Noel Murphy at Celtic Tours was another great training ground for an Ireland tour operator. For many people, including Celtic’s travel agent customers, Kavanagh became the face of the company.

Kavanagh served as president to GCS Groups from 2009 to 2013, then founded Journeys Connect in February 2013

Sceptre’s Future

Under its new ownership structure, Sceptre will continue to develop and offer custom crafted air-inclusive packages, escorted tours, customized group vacations, chauffeur vacations, bed and breakfast stays and rail vacations, and will continue to work closely with DH for its technologies and vendor relations.  

“We will put together product, they manage those products, build them into their inventory systems and online portals,” said Kavanagh. “They will hold the inventory and settle invoices. DH is our solution on the technology side.”

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