Manxman Brian Kelly started Mann Link Travel out of an attic in Finch Road, Douglas, in 1982 when he was 21. He is now the chairman of the Online Regional Travel Group Ltd (ORTG), the largest independent travel group in the British Isles with annual sales of £25 million. The group has received grants from the Department for Enterprise to develop and implement bespoke software and websites, and is using the Isle of Man as a test bed for destination websites that could be rolled out in a number of global locations.
'When I set up Mann Link Travel in 1982, the Island attracted a creditable number of visitors although package holidays to the Mediterranean and beyond were becoming increasingly popular.
My initial business model was packaging flight/ferry and accommodation into the Island. It worked and having re-entered this much smaller space 35 years on, we have established ourselves as the largest inbound tour operator on the Island, this time using the latest online technology.
Today we operate in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, we are a leading business travel provider in each island serving over 400 local companies, we have leisure shops, and are both a tour operator and a leading UK online travel agent with 10 travel website brands. The group also has over 40 employees working as far afield as the USA.'
'We continued to obtain grant support in the last three years for the development of our tour operation website VisitIOM.co.uk, which uses bespoke software and is unique within the global travel sector. We are using it, and the Isle of Man, as a test bed for our online model which if successful will be the basis for travel websites in many global locations.
Our own investment has been substantial, £500k-plus, and the Department’s support has been critical in allowing us to develop, roll out and market our sites. The software includes the ability to add any local product, be it service or merchandise, to the booking process and combine it with travel and accommodation or as a standalone purchase.'
We are confident our websites will continue to grow and we can now roll out the same software on our Dubai and Abu Dhabi destination websites, where the expected client size could be 2,000 to 3,000. There is now a unique opportunity for us to expand into new locations. The internet and our ability to develop and operate online destination travel websites opens up a whole world of possibilities for ORTG Ltd and this could not have happened without grant support from DfE.
Find out more at www.ortg.co.uk.