Significant move for Flight Centre as it announces the acquisition of Gapyear.com, one of the original web content and travel social networks.
Terms of the deal between the Australia-based Flight Centre and Gapyear – a specialist in, inevitably, global gap year planning – were not disclosed.
Gapyear.com, which will retain its founder Tom Griffiths in the new role of CEO, will join Student Flights, Round the World Experts and Liberty Travel in the Flight Centre portfolio of brands.
Flight Centre plans to aggressively expand the Gapyear business around the world, establishing dedicated sites for travellers in the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the US.
The Gapyear “vertical social network”, as Flight Centre UK managing director Chris Galanty calls it, will be integrated into the group’s other brands – online and offline (2,000 shops worldwide) – and in return product and content will be fed into Gapyear’s existing system.
Interestingly the Gapyear web strategy will also see a change with the site not only servicing different outbound markets but also split into three segments, targeting 26 year olds and under (student gap years), 27 to 50 year olds (career breaks and redundancies), and the over-50s (pre and post retirement trips).
Research by Mintel estimates the gap year market is around $10 billion annually.
Griffiths says the potential to grow the Gapyear brand on a global scale has, until now, been limited only by resources and knowledge to build a worldwide brand.
“It’s one thing growing Gapyear.com’s social network, which at 13 years old was the first social network in the travel sector, it’s another thing monetising it. However, the ability to bolt Gapyear.com into an established global network of stores and online brands will enable us to deliver a targeted trip planning service local to the end user, globally and age specific.”