Frosch buys into Conlin Travel, building presence in the Great Lakes region

Frosch International Travel is continuing to make pandemic-era acquisitions, this time taking a majority stake in the corporate travel division of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Conlin Travel earlier this month for an undisclosed sum.

Under the terms of the deal, Frosch (No. 13 on Travel Weekly’s 2021 Power List) will take over 51% of Conlin Travel’s corporate unit. Conlin Travel ranked No. 45 on this year’s Power List. 

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The segment changed dramatically in the pandemic. But, as road warriors slowly start to return to the road, which trends are here to stay?

“Over the 23 years that I’ve been at Frosch, we’ve grown about half of our business through acquisitions,” said Frosch CEO Bryan Leibman. “We’re privileged to find some outstanding people in the business and have become an acquirer of choice and, really, a partner of choice, for many.”

The deal follows close on the heels of Frosch’s acquisition in May of Valerie Wilson Travel (No. 35 on the Power List).

A statement from Frosch said that Conlin Travel reported sales of more than $200 million in 2019, with corporate travel accounting for the lion’s share of that business, at around $160 million.

The company, which has a strong foothold in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, also has leisure and specialty travel divisions, which will remain 100% owned by Conlin Travel.

Approximately 40 of Conlin Travel’s 70 employees will transition over to the Frosch corporate travel team. Conlin Travel managing partner Chris Conlin will retain his role.

According to Frosch, the acquisition will enhance Frosch’s corporate presence in the Great Lakes region, a market in which the company has said it “historically has not been very active.” 

For Conlin Travel’s existing corporate clients, meanwhile, being part of the Frosch ecosystem is expected to bring myriad benefits. 

“A lot of it is about the global one-platform technology, the NDC content and the commitment to development of technology,” said Conlin. “Just about every corporate prospect in our marketplace is a global company. There’s no longer just domestic travel, as they have offices or affiliated offices in other countries that we need to service. Frosch has brick-and-mortars in dozens of countries around the world, and that’s a real advantage.”

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Conlin Travel CEO Chris Conlin and Valerie Wilson Travel co-president Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg focused on the comeback of one of the biggest segments in the industry — business travel.

The deal also comes at a time when consolidation within the broader travel sector increasingly appears to be a key component to long-term success.

“I think smaller TMCs are facing tough challenges,” Leibman said. “It’s been a consolidating and shrinking industry, really, for the last decade. Today, the investments are bigger. The expectation is that everything has to be in real time, on a mobile platform and on a global basis. And that puts even more pressure on these  to align with others.”

According to Leibman, Frosch is continuing to eye additional M&A opportunities.

“Frosch is really focused on the premium market on the corporate end but also in that high-end leisure space, as well. These are core strengths for us, and we will continue to invest [on both ends] via acquisition.”

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