When the tour operator that Jason Fry worked for went bust, he struck out on his own to set up travel website Alpharooms (20th) in 1998. From working alone in a tiny “box room” in central Sheffield, Fry now employs 100 staff, turns over a tidy £5.5m and processes more than 150,000 hotel room bookings a year. Goldtrail Travel (61st) founder Kadir Aydin also spotted a growth opportunity in the travel industry: Turkish holidays. Trips to the Ottoman Empire are better value for money than destinations such as Spain, where higher EU membership costs have pushed prices up. Audley Travel Group (48th) is back in the Hot 100 for the second consecutive year. Founder Craig Burkinshaw has turned his passion for backpacking into a thriving travel business, with sales of £36.3m. However, the internet has tightened the market and Audley’s success is down to constant reinvention, he says. John Hays, who founded Hays Travel (72nd) from the back of his mother’s childrenswear shop in County Durham, also puts his firm’s impressive growth down to innovation. Hays allows 100 independent UK operators to trade under its licensing agreements, giving them access to its buying power and back-office technology. London-based Think W3 (53rd) has enjoyed rapid success by focusing on the less glamorous aspects of the leisure industry – providing airport parking services and travel insurance. The Imperial Event Company (80th) offers a range of custom-designed events for mainly corporate clients, such as trips to international rugby matches and rock concerts. The management team has a combined 40 years’ experience in what is still afairly young market and sales are already nearing £7.5m. Ten Lifestyle Management (46th) also works with corporate clients and wealthy individuals, dealing with more than 10,000 requests monthly – from sourcing plumbers to booking restaurant tables. The firm was set up by Alex Cheatle and Andrew Long in 1998. They initially cut costs by manning the 24-hour helpline themselves. The hard work paid off. Today the firm pulls in sales of £7.1m. Entrepreneurs having a flutter with online gambling are also cashing in, such as Cashcade’s (63rd) Patrick Southon and King.com’s (35th) Riccardo Zacconi and Toby Rowland.King.com is now the world’s largest skills gaming site, hosting more than 80 million games every month.
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