A STUDENT who spotted a gap in the market for a marriage- based tour operator has won £100,000 of investment from four travel industry “dragons”.

Danny Waine, 24, from Middlesbrough, who came up with the idea during a yearlong work placement, will have the support of leading travel industry figures as he launches the Perfect Weddings Abroad venture.

As well as business advice, each of the “dragons” is investing £25,000 of their own money in the company.

The backing was the prize after the idea, fine-tuned with business partner Helen Doyle, was voted the best in the country in the Big Idea competition, run by UK Travel Trade Gazette.

Mr Waine said: “This is a real dream come true for us.

The business will benefit enormously from the £100,000 financial investment, but the other part of the prize, which is expert support from some of the leading lights in the travel and tourism industry, is invaluable.”

The four backers, who have each taken a share in the parent company Perfect Weddings and Honeymoons Ltd are: Steve Endacott, from On Holiday Group; Terry Fisher, of Gold Medal Travel, who built up his own travel agency network from the age of 19, before selling up to Airtours in 1988; Simon Powell, of Comtec, a travel industry technology company; and David Speakman, of Travel Counsellors.

Mr Waine added: “In the long term we want to become the UK’s number one weddings abroad operator and in the meantime, we’ve been getting a taste of how a large company works and the type of systems and support we’ll have access to after being invited to Travel Counsellors’ headquarters.

“We already have conference calls lined up with the investors and a strategy meeting with Steven Endacott to formulate the long-term plan.

“We are in the process of appointing new staff, with some key members already lined up and the potential for reservations, web design and work placement students from Newcastle Business School to work with us further down the line.”

Mr Endacott said: “We were impressed that they were willing to put in some hard graft to make this work.

“We think this is a great business plan that will make them, and us, substantial returns.”

The company is still majority- owned by Mr Waine and Ms Doyle.

It was set up after they met during his work placement with Planet Holidays, in London.

Mr Waine was working as a tour operator and Ms Doyle as a travel agent.

The new venture will offer services including arranging the wedding, the provision of a personal wedding co-ordinator to accompany the couple from the UK to their location, and a pre-departure wedding planning service.

Mr Waine graduated from Newcastle Business School, part of Northumbria University, last year after studying BA (Hons) Travel and Tourism Management.

The new venture will launch next year.