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Travel guides firm on road to growth with NPIF investment

31 January 2019

From the left are Emma Cross of Mercia, Matt Barker and Mike Beech of Horizon Guides and Grant Peggie of the British Business Bank

A Sheffield company which produces downloadable travel guides has closed a £325,000 funding round from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia Fund Managers and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Horizon Guides aims to help people enjoy more authentic and memorable travel experiences. From seeing the Northern lights to visiting the Rio carnival, exploring Alaska and walking with gorillas in the wild, it encourages them to engage more closely with local communities and explore the culture. The guides offer impartial advice from professional travel writers, while the company makes its revenue from its partnerships with tour operators.

The funding will allow the company to scale up its operation, invest in a sales team and software development and produce guides on a wider range of topics and destinations.

Horizon Guides was founded by Matthew Barker, who spent ten years living in North and South America and South-East Asia while running a travel marketing agency. After returning home to Sheffield, he joined forces with Mike Beech, another keen traveller, to launch Horizon Guides in 2017. The company now employs four people and uses hundreds of freelance writers.

Grant Peggie, Director at British Business Bank, said: “We’re pleased to support Horizon Guides in its mission to expand operations, invest in people, develop software and supply its customers with a wider range of activities. This investment will enable the company to target significant growth, and we look forward to seeing the business scale up.”

Matthew Barker, who is the company’s CEO, said: “Despite the growing demand for ‘experiential travel’, independent operators within this market are finding it harder to reach their audience as search engine results are dominated by the big booking sites. Horizon Guides allows independents to reach their audience directly, while offering travellers impartial, quality information to help them make the right choices.”

David Best and Emma Cross of Mercia Fund Managers worked on the investment. Emma Cross said: “Horizon Guides is on a quest to promote responsible travel. The funding will allow the company to produce more content focused on social responsibility when travelling, reach a wider audience and build more partnerships with independent operators.”

Deborah McGargle provided legal advice to the company on the investment while Caroline Walker at CMS advised Mercia.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

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