Follow-up on Kuoni’s Departure from the Tour Operator Business—It Could Remain a Swiss-Based Company and U.S.-Based Units Will be Untouched: Following the Jan. 14 announcement by Zurich-based Kuoni, the oldest and one of the largest tour operator companies in continental Europe, speculation—particularly in the travel trade media—over the future of the company’s various operations in different countries led to a follow-up series of statements from principals in Kuoni-owned GTA and Travel Bound. Gleaned from company statements and other sources, here is what happened, is happening and is not happening in the wake of the Jan.14 announcement.
- Kuoni is divesting itself of its European retail travel businesses and recommitting itself to its North American and Asian B2B/wholesale businesses, including Gulliver’s Travel Associates (GTA) and its subsidiary, New York-based Travel Bound.
- The countries where Kuoni is dropping its retail businesses are Switzerland, the U.K., Belgium, Netherlands, Hong Kong, China, India and Scandinavia.
- The change in focus will not directly impact anything in the U.S. or Canada. This means brite spokes, an experiential tour company launched in 2013 by New York-based AlliedTPro (a Kuoni-owned brand) will be unaffected.
Ivan Walter, CEO of GTA, released a statement directed to GTA’s retail partners saying that Kuoni “plans to focus on its core business as a service provider to the global travel industry and exit from its tour operating activities.”
- Travel Bound’s president, Elizabeth Crabill, told TravelPulse that Kuoni is “exiting its European B2C operations in order to focus on its B2B divisions, including FIT and groups business with Travel Bound.”
Walter said Kuoni is committed “to further developing the three divisions of Global Travel Distribution (GTA, Travel Bound and TravelCube), Global Travel Services (the Kuoni Group Travel Experts brand and Destination Management Specialists) and VFS Global. As we rapidly and sustainably grow as a leading service provider for the global travel industry, we will continue to offer you attractive and competitive services and solutions.”
- Named as possible suitors in the search to take over the units for sale are Hotelplan and TUI Suisse, the second and third-largest tour operators after Kuoni. Both have shown interest in the units for ale.
- In fact, the former head of Kuoni’s Swiss tour operator business, Thomas Stirnimann, who is now Hotelplan’s CEO, told a Swiss travel trade magazine Travel Inside that the company would look into a possible acquisition.
- Meanwhile, Martin Wittwer, CEO of TUI Suisse, told Travel Inside that there already had been unsuccessful talks last year to combine Kuoni and TUI’s Swiss tour operating businesses. However, TUI is already has a strong presence in all markets where Kuoni businesses are now up for sale.