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Italy specialist Long Travel has become the third niche travel company to be acquired by private investment firm Pebble Travel Investors.

The Aito member, founded by teachers Ray and Annie Long more than 25 years ago, is believed to have been taken over in a seven-figure deal.

Pebble has previously invested in Ski Solutions and BSpoke Cycling Tours, formed from the acquisition of Bents Tours.

All funds are provided entirely by its directors and investors personally, who take an active, non-executive role in all investments.

Pebble only invests in small, niche travel companies in the UK.

The investment firm’s chief executive, Stewart Baird, said: “Long Travel is a wonderful example of a destination specialist tour operator, which delivers high margins achieved through their exceptional customer experience and exclusive property selection.

He added: “Pebble Travel was set up to invest in and acquire niche, specialist travel companies with up to £20 million turnover, and our first few investments are performing extremely well.

“The UK travel sector is polarised with some large companies and many small businesses but very few in the mid-range.

“We are building a portfolio of highly profitable, high margin, high touch, niche tour operators.”

Company founders, Ray and Annie Long, said: “After nearly 30 wonderful years running Long Travel, we decided to step away from the business.

“We felt that it was time to give Long Travel the opportunity it deserves to flourish and grow beyond us.

“We chose Pebble Travel Investors because they share our passion for travel, they were as excited as us by the opportunity for growth and most importantly they appreciated our fantastic team who are at the heart of the business.”

Aito chief executive, Kate Kenward,?said: “Specialist travel continues to be a strong sector within the travel marketplace.

“Their yields are solid, their customers are loyal and their owners are knowledgeable and passionate about what they do.

“It’s great to see private equity recognising entrepreneurialism and investing in these specialist companies, which have been nurtured and grown, in most cases, from very small