Scottish travel agency secures £7m private equity backing

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UK private equity firm Piper has invested £7million in Scottish travel company Rabbie’s.

Founded in 1993 by Robin Worsnop, the Edinburgh-based company began by taking small groups of travelers across Scotland in its first 16-seater mini-coach. Today it has nearly 100 vehicles operating small group tours across the UK, as well as partnerships in Ireland and Europe.

Sales reached £17million in 2019, with 80% of revenue currently coming from trips to Scotland. Rabbie’s has also recently expanded into Europe, with trips to Spain, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland.

Sales rebounded after the pandemic and bookings in April were 25% higher than April 2019.

Piper’s minority investment will allow Worsnop to remain on the board as majority shareholder, alongside the core management team of chief executive Hazel Rickett, director of sales and marketing Heather Reekie and COO Alec Lee.

They will be joined by Hugo Kimber as chairman, who previously served as executive chairman of adventure tour brand Explore.

The investment is expected to help the company maintain its market position, while boosting brand awareness among inbound tourists and domestic travellers.

It is the first investment from Piper’s seventh fund and second in travel following its £7million investment in Mediterranean villa brand The Thinking Traveler in November 2020.

Worsnop said: “We are delighted to find a partner who shares our values ​​and ambitions for Rabbie’s as we emerge from Covid.

“Piper’s passion for brand, purpose and culture is a perfect fit with Rabbie’s team, and we look forward to making the world a better place by traveling together.”

Dan Stern, Piper’s partner who led the deal, said: “While the travel industry has been hit hard by Covid, our consumer analytics work shows people are more eager than ever to see new countries and discover new cultures.

“As a brand unrivaled in its levels of customer satisfaction, Rabbie’s is uniquely positioned to benefit from this pent-up demand as we emerge from the pandemic.”

Kimber added, “Robin, Hazel, Heather, Alec and the team have built a great company with an incredibly strong brand and culture.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with Piper, who has a proven track record of growing brands while keeping the companies’ founding values ​​at their core.”

Dane Houlahan and Tim Evans provided corporate finance advice to Rabbie’s on the transaction.

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