Filling a gap in the market

IPSWICH: Ipswich-based company gapyear.com is today celebrating a bright new future after being acquired by travel agent giants the Flight Centre Ltd.

The move will see a boost to the number of jobs in the town as the social networking travel site expands globally.

Former Ipswich School pupil Tom Griffiths will remain at the helm as chief executive taking the company he discovered in 1997 on to a bright future at the company’s Ipswich offices.

Flight Centre Limited (FCL) has acquired an 80pc share of the social networking website in a move that will boost gapyear.com’s physical presence, linking in with the 2,000 branches of the FCL worldwide.

It will create a multi-country, multi-age-group, targeted travel planning service with a local physical presence through the FCL stores.

Mr Griffiths said it marks an “exciting time” for the company.

He said: “We are now investing and growing the team, staying here in Ipswich. Our work with the Flight Centre means we can boost investment and move forward.

Most Read

“Some of the things we are doing have not been done before and that makes it really exciting.”

The move will mean a jobs boost in the town, as Mr Griffiths looks to recruit editorial staff to help manage the company’s Writers Academy as well as a new sales team, operating from the Great Colman Street offices.

The venture, based on the clicks and mortar model, a website with a physical presence, will create a vertical social network in the travel industry – which means it is half social networking site, bringing travellers together and half travel agents.

Focusing on the six countries where the gap year market is strongest, it will concentrate on the UK, America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Each country will have its own tailor-made website, broken down into three age groups, 26 and under, 27 to 50 and 50 plus, to provide relevant advice and travel information.

Alongside the expansion Mr Griffiths is looking forward to employing a team of editorial staff to develop the Writers Academy.

The aim is for a range of lifestyle pieces, from how to see Sydney for free to luxury trips to Europe, from music travel to art travel and family tree travel.

- Is your business booming? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk