A SMALL travel business that started as a hobby with one converted safari truck is now a global power in the travel industry.

The Overland Club, Sedgefield, County Durham, founded by Ron Smith as a hobby ten years ago, now takes hundreds of people on adventure holidays around the world, including gorilla safaris and Aboriginal bush adventures.

He started with a single cross-Africa expedition and now has a fleet of 12 specially-converted Overland vehicles, offering 27 expeditions, ranging from two to 28 weeks, in Africa, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

The company employs 16 drivers, caters for more than 700 travellers a year and expects a turnover of more than £500,000 in the current financial year.

Based in Sedgefield's Salters Lane Estate, The Overland Club is securing contracts with companies such as Barcelona-based Kananga Expeditions as well as charter work.

Mr Smith said: "Our new website totally changed our marketing impetus and has doubled our business. We now take bookings 24 hours a day from all corners of the globe, have increased our market share and been able to link in to other companies."

The website was set up with the help of Business Link County Durham.

The Overland Club is at www.overlandclub.com