Big Red Group eyes further acquisitions after scooping up travel brands

Big Red Group David Anderson

Big Red Group co-founder and chief executive David Anderson. Source: supplied.

Experience marketplace Big Red Group has added two travel brands to its portfolio in a multimillion-dollar transaction, as chief executive David Anderson and his team continue to look for more acquisition opportunities. 

Gold Coast-based Experience Oz and Experience Oz Local Agent will join Big Red Group and sit alongside its existing experience brands RedBalloon, Adrenaline and Lime&Tonic.

The two brands, which specialise in Australian and New Zealand holiday bookings and B2B concierge bookings respectively, are being acquired from TicketMates Australia, which has been operated by founder Ben Manns for almost 16 years.

Manns will become a shareholder in Big Red Group as part of the acquisition, and join the leadership team in the role of supply and distribution director, while TicketMates general manager Clint Gudenswager will continue to oversee Local Agent. 

The TicketMates brand has also been acquired as part of the deal, however, the company’s member-based auto club business Club Connect was not included. The TicketMates business will now rebrand to Club Connect and work with Big Red Group through a multi-year wholesale agreement to connect suppliers with its 11 million members. 

Anderson, who founded Big Red Group with RedBalloon founding director Naomi Simson in 2017, did not disclose the sale price asked by SmartCompany, but said Experience Oz and Local Agent were collectively doing approximately $50 million in revenue pre-pandemic, excluding the Club Connect and wholesale parts of the business. As such the deal is a “multimillion-dollar transaction”. 

Big Red Group now has a headcount of more than 150 employees, and Anderson says the team is thankful that 22 TicketMates employees accepted roles with the group, given the tight hiring market currently faced by Australian businesses. 

Experience Oz travel

Experience Oz specialises in Australian and New Zealand travel experiences. Source: supplied.

Big Red Group says it is on track to deliver some 1 million customers to its supply network this year and currently has more than 10,000 experiences on offer across its portfolio. 

The company has “always wanted to roll up the domestic market”, says Anderson, and in TicketMates and Manns, the company saw brands that were playing in a different, yet complementary space. 

It took more than 12 months to complete the deal, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating significant challenges, particularly in the interstate and inbound tourism markets in which the two brands being acquired operate. 

Importantly, Anderson says the addition of the two new brands allows Big Red Group to “deepen our relationships” with its network of more than 2500 tour and experience operators, which can now reach customers through multiple marketplaces. 

“We’re creating a really big flynet of demand for our suppliers,” he says. 

Anderson says sales are up at both RedBalloon and Adrenaline on the year before and the performance of the Group’s owned marketplaces has given it confidence to explore even more acquisitions, both domestically and internationally. 

“We remain really acquisitive. Watch this space.”

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