Receptive Disrupted: Thomas Cook India Acquires AlliedTPro
AlliedTPro, one of the oldest receptive tour operators in the United States, has been acquired by Thomas Cook India as part of a deal in which the Indian operator has announced its acquisition of the Kuoni Group’s destination management businesses worldwide. Thomas Cook India is owned by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., a Toronto-based firm that previously (2015) acquired the Kuoni brand in India and Hong Kong. Before that, Fairfax Financial had acquired Thomas Cook India in 2012.
The destination management component of Kuoni—founded in 1906, the Swiss travel company, one of Europe’s oldest travel brands, was acquired in February 2006 by the Swedish private equity firm, EQT Partners—covers some 17 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the U.S., including such Brands as AlliedTPro, which is headquartered in New York City; Asian Trails; Desert Adventures Tourism; Gulf Dunes, Private Safaris; and Australian Tours Management.
Overall, the Thomas Cook (India) footprint at the time of the acquisition, excluding subsidiaries, spanned 261 locations (including 21 airport counters) in 102 cities across India, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.
The founder, chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. Is Prem Watsa, a Canadian businessman who was born in India and came to Canada in the 1970s with just $8. He earned an MBA from the University of Western Ontario, supporting himself financially by selling furnaces and air conditioners.
After graduate school, he worked for an insurance company and, in 1984, tool over a small Canadian trucking insurance company that was on the verge of bankruptcy and renamed it Fairfax Financial Holdings. His net worth is estimated at $1.1 billion.
AlliedTPro dates its history back to the mid-1950s as bus company that was purchased by the late Stanley Fisher—credited with being one of the founders of the international inbound tourism industry in the U.S.—and named Allied Tours. Kuoni acquired Allied Tours in 2000 and merged it with TPro, a former New York City-based competitor.
For Brazil’s Economy and Tourism Industry, “The worst has passed.”
Brazilian Real is up More than 20 percent against the Dollar in 15 months and Brazilians are spending more—much more—while traveling abroad. With the U.S. dollar still the global standard on currency exchanges, it is good news for U.S. travel suppliers, destinations and receptive tour operators to know that, since the trough of the Brazilian economic recession—the worst ever for the country—the country’s currency, the real, has increased more than 20 percent. The growing strength of the real over the past 15 months (see table below) overlaps or coincides with a surge in the amount of spending by Brazilians traveling abroad.
According to data just released by the nation’s Central Bank, expenditures of Brazilians abroad totaled $1.530 billion in March this year; this is 18.5 percent higher than in the same period of last year, when Brazilians spent 1.291 billion. In the first quarter of 2017, expenses were $4.469 billion, or 50.4 percent higher, than the expenses recorded during Q1 2016 $2.972 billion).
While it is down 20 percent from a high of 40 cents to the U.S. dollar just as the recession was beginning, it is up 22 percent since the trough of the recession at the beginning of February 2016.
Commenting on the economic news, Eduardo Borba, president of president of SONDA, a major Latin American technology solutions and services company, said “The macroeconomic situation, which began to worsen in 2014 and reached its peak in 2016 with inflation, unemployment, rising interest rates and fiscal crisis, shows the first signs of improvement and, it seems, the economy is strengthened again. The worst has passed … Brazil’s economic recovery is already underway.”
Active America—a Video Log
The just concluded 2017 Active America China Summit in Portland, Ore., proved to be an unqualified success as both supplier and buyer surveys gave the Summit the best ratings in the event’s nine-year history. Some 60 Chinese tour operators had more than 3,500 appointments with the U.S. and Canadian suppliers and destination professionals on hand. Meanwhile, the host city’s Travel Portland and its provided a setting that had delegates nodding their heads in affirmation through the three days of the Summit. Jan Ie Low, who headed up the NAJ team that staffed the Summit, prepared this video that captures the pace and spirit of the event, which moves next year to Atlanta.
Here it is: 2017 Active America China
Hotelbeds-GTA Aftermath: Former Owner Buys Back MTS Globe from GTA
MTS Globe, a major DMC, to be independent again following Hotelbeds’ acquisition of GTA: One of the consequences of the recently announced acquisition by Hotelbeds of the GTA bedbank from the Kuoni Group is that GTA’s MTS Globe is going to be bought back by its CEO, Rembert Euling.
A large, regional DMC with 900 employees in 65 offices in 15 countries, MTS Globe serviced 5 million passengers in 2016, accounting for 23 million overnights, and had a €600 million ($655 million) turnover. It is an incoming services provider for German tour operators and travel agents, including DER Touristik, Vtours and JT Touristik.
It was only a little more than six months ago, last Sept. 18, that GTA signed an agreement with MTS Globe to acquire the latter’s hotel distribution, destination management services and IT businesses. Under the agreement, MTS Globe´s partner network and management team remained unchanged and continue to trade under its MTS Globe, OTS Globe and Axis Data brands.
In announcing the buyback, Euling said that he has decided run MTS as an independent network of partner companies. Francisco Girona and Michael Frey will run the company as joint CEOs of MTS Globe and OTS respectively, while Euling remains board chairman. The purchase comes just after MTS Global announced the opening of new offices in Mexico, Croatia and the UAE.
In a separate action, MTS, as it increases its global footprint, MTS has just purchased a 50 percent stake in Dubai-based DMC Desert Gate, its partner in the Gulf region since last year.
Also, Another Operator Acquisition in Germany: Netherlands-based Sundio Group International has acquired the German youth travel specialist JAM Reisen. Sundio is one of the largest Dutch tour operators with more than one million customers in the Netherlands and various other European markets. JAM Reisen, whose former owners will continue to manage the firm, has some 40,000 guests and turnover of about €20 million ($21.8 million). Headquartered in Rotterdam, Sudnio Group operates in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, German, Denmark, Sweden and the UK.
Where to Send Your Clients Interested in Guy Watching Tours
Here are the two dozen USA destinations with the most handsome men: For those tour operators interested in creating tours aimed at bringing groups to destinations with lots of good-looking guys, California and Texas are blessed with three cities each among the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to have the most handsome men in the United States. This is the conclusion of Grooming Lounge, which has a pricey website that sells men’s toiletries, cologne and grooming goods. (It also has grooming lounges in D.C. and northern Virginia.) It recently put out its list of the Top 24 cities for good looking guys.
When it comes to handsome, the West Coast dominates. Seattle takes the No. 1 spot followed by San Francisco and Portland. Other major metropolitans fared less well, with New York at spot 12, Chicago in 13, and Los Angeles closer to the bottom at No. 19.
While attractiveness may be subjective, Grooming Lounge says it used several methods to measure the men in each city’s commitment to appearance. Its criteria included amount spent on personal care services per man, spent on personal care products per man, spent on shaving needs per man, spent on apparel per man and the fittest cities in the nation. Men in Seattle were found to spend the most annually—approximately $682—on personal care items and services. Meanwhile, D.C. is home to the fittest guys in the country. The full list follows:
For Germans, Short-Break Holidays are on the Upswing
Germans are booking more short breaks. This is shown in a recent study by the Internet Travel Sales Association (VIR) in collaboration with the Research Community for Vacation and Travel (FUR).
Last year, the citizens undertook a total of 80.5 million “Kurztrips” (“Shortcuts”) from two to four days; in 2016 it was about 77.1 million. Per person, the average number of bookings was for 2.4 short trips, according to VIR and FUR, with 78 per cent of them online.
Three-quarters of the trips were undertaken within Germany, mostly in destinations outside metropolitan centers.
The most popular urban destination was Berlin, followed by Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Dresden. Abroad, the top five are (1) London; (2) Vienna; (3) Paris (4) Prague; and (5) Amsterdam. London and Vienna have been the biggest gainers.
The most visited countries, short-haul, are: (1) Austria; (2) the Netherlands; (3) Italy; (4) Great Britain; and (5) France.
Despite a projected flat increase/small decrease in overseas visitors to the USA (The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office has projected a total of 2.226 million visitors from Germany to the U.S. in 2017—a one percent year-on-year increase), the United States remains the top long-haul destination for German holidaymakers. “USA is the undefeated number one among Germans,” says Torsten Schäfer, spokesman of the German Travel Association (DRV) in a just-posted article on tourism-review.com.
In China, Panhandlers Accept We Chat Pay
Tour and travel professionals should take note: WeChat has become a business necessity, not a social networking convenience. An article last week in the South China Morning Post made this clear as it detailed data that confirm the app—it hit the marketplace in 2011—as an essential component in promoting and selling and promoting their product to the world’s largest travel market. Some of the major points made in the article:
—At the recent Active America China in Portland, a We Chat video showed panhandlers accepting donations through We Chat.
—WeChat is already the dominant app in the country with 889 million monthly active users.
—Nearly 90 per cent of more than 20,000 surveyed web users in China seeing the app as their top choice for daily work communication.
—87.7 per cent of WeChat users use the app for daily work communication. Phones, text messages and fax machines were used by 59.5 per cent, and email by 22.6 per cent.
—About 57 per cent of the surveyed WeChat users say their new contacts on the app are work related.
—A growing number of Chinese business people now scan each other’s quick respond codes (QRCs) to connect on WeChat instead of exchanging name cards during meetings.
—Office workers share files through WeChat rather than using emails. Even conference calls can be made anytime, anywhere via WeChat as long as there is an internet connection.
—WeChat users spent on average 66 minutes a day on the app in 2016, a significant increase from the previous year.
—A third (34 percent) of WeChat users spent on average more than four hours on the app everyday last year compared with 16.3 per cent the year earlier.
—Summing up the app’s integral role in the daily business life of China, the South China Morning Post wrote, “Some people may try to diversify away from WeChat because of their extensive use of the app, said Ma Shicong, analyst with the Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys. ‘But most have to stay because where can they run to when their entire social connections are in one app?’ she said.”
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Günter Geske, a long-time manager for Thomas Cook Germany, has retired from the company. Actually, Geske, managing director yield and product for Central Europe, had retired from Thomas Cook once before, in February 2015, but was then taken back again by board chairman Christoph Debus in May 2015. Geske’s responsibilities in the field of yield & product are being taken over Stefanie Berk, managing director, Central and Eastern Europe. And, beginning May 1, the managing directors of the German subsidiaries Bucher Last Minute, Öger Tours and Tourvital report directly to Berk.
Brazilian operator Grupo Trend’s Shop Hotel, a B2B site for travel agents, has announced the appointment of Fernando Gimenez as its new general manager. Gimenez, who has been with company for three years, has served with several leading Brazilian companies in senior marketing positions.
Grupo Trend has also that Giovanna Lopes is new manager of its groups and events department. A veteran of nearly 20 years in the travel and tourism industry, Lopes will report to the company’s deputy director of national products, Ricardo Assalim.
WestJet has announced that Craig Maccubbin has been named executive vice-president and chief information officer. A 25-year tour and travel industry veteran, Craig has held a number of leadership positions, including chief information officer for organizations such as Spirit Airlines, LasVegas.com and Black Entertainment Television. Maccubbin will be based in Calgary.
The UK-based Greg Evans Consultancy has been appointed as the UK and Ireland sales and marketing office for small group adventure specialist Bindlestiff Tours, which is headquartered in Las Vegas. Bindlestiff Tours specializes in operating small group adventure tours in the American West with a focus on Nevada, Utah, Arizona, California, Pacific Northwest and Alaska.