Investment in Bristol specialist travel firm sets it on path to growth as tourist markets open up again

July 1, 2022

Bristol-based specialist tour firm Inside Travel Group is on the way to further expansion after receiving significant new investment.

The firm, which specialises in key Asian markets, is readying itself for a new era of travel as restrictions end across the continent and Japan’s borders open again. 

Inside Travel Group was co-founded in 2000 by university friends Alastair Donnelly and Simon King after living in Japan.

It has since built a reputation as the leading independent Japan travel specialist through its InsideJapan brand, while its South East and East Asia specialist sister business InsideAsia Tours, which it launched later, continues to grow and reinforce its reputation as a provider of inspirational cultural adventures across the region.

The investment from London-based private investment group Blandford Capital was coordinated by regional and travel-sector focussed teams at accountancy group KPMG’s corporate finance division, which provided lead advisory services, together with legal advice from Bristol-headquartered national law firm TLT.

As part of the deal, financial details of which have not been disclosed, Blandford Capital has introduced two non-executive directors to Inside Travel Group’s board who between them bring them many years of industry and business expertise.

Ian Simkins is the former chief executive of Audley Travel and current chair of The Thinking Traveller, while David Wiseman brings multi-sector business and travel industry expertise, having worked with Ian Simkins at Audley, and having held senior roles at brands such as and Holiday Autos Group among others.

Ian Simkins said the deal would support Inside Travel Group’s ambitious plans.

“The InsideJapan and InsideAsia brands have a brilliant reputation with their clients and travel partners throughout the industry,” he said.

“We are investing in a proven company, product and team that we believe in as Asia opens up – the timing couldn’t be better.

“We all see enormous potential in the continued growth of Japan, and the InsideAsia brand with its expanded portfolio of destinations including Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, and South Korea.”

Co-founder Simon King added: “In strengthening our financial position, and bringing onboard valuable industry and business expertise, we will not only continue to provide and improve the incredible holidays and service that our InsideJapan and InsideAsia teams are known for but grow also.”

Alastair Donnelly said he was delighted that Blandford, Ian and David had recognised the historic success and future potential of Inside Travel Group.

“We are excited to work alongside like-minded partners whose business philosophy aligns with ours. We are unanimously committed to the growth of sustainable and responsible travel,” he said, adding that the firm aimed to gain B-Corp status, which recognises businesses that put people before profit.

KPMG corporate finance director Tim Spooner added: “We are proud to have been able to support the business throughout the transaction. Our ability to get this deal done in the current market is testament to the excellence of the management team and the strength of its pre-eminent brand in its markets.”

InsideJapan, which is based in the Electricity House on The Centre, is one of the first businesses to run small group tours again following Japan’s recent opening of its borders to fully escorted trips.

With further easing of Japan’s border restrictions expected imminently, Thailand announcing the tapering of entry requirements from July and other countries open without restrictions, the firm said Asia was truly now back on the travel map.

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