No one in the tour and travel industry seemed to have been tipped off when the H.I.S. Company, one of Japan’s largest tour operators, announced last Friday that it was acquiring Jonview Canada, the largest receptive tour operator in the country and a presence in Canada’s industry for more than 30 years. On its website, the company said that it brings more than 250,000 visitors annually to the country. It also makes a point that its staff (Jonview employs 180 people in Toronto and Montreal, along with 120 seasonal guides) prides itself on the fact that its customer service is underscored by its multilingual staff. The company offers products and services in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese and Mandarin.
What Drove Transat to Sell: “Transat is thus successfully implementing its strategic focus on its leisure travel activities in Canada and the development of its hotel business,” said Jean-Marc Eustache, president and CEO of Transat, parent company of Jonview. This is a focus borne out by the company’s decision last year to sell off its Transat France operation—one of the largest travel companies in France—to TUI France. Announced in the spring of 2016, the merger has resulted in the loss of more than 200 jobs and is still underway as some employees are still separated geographically between Levallois-Perret (headquarters of TUI France) and Ivry-sur-Seine (home base of Transat France). By January, the merger plan is to have all employees at Levallois.
What H.I.S. Gets from the Deal: “The acquisition of Jonview Canada is part of our ambitious expansion plan for North America,” said Hideo Hatano, general manager, global business development division, H.I.S., echoing a not uncommon theme among Japan’s international tour operators. Lacking opportunities to increase share in Japan, whose slow-growth population (it has one of the world’ lowest birth rates) offers few opportunities to increase share in a stagnant market, tour operators have been seeking opportunities abroad.
Last March, for instance, JTB completed its acquisition of Panorama Tours Indonesia (PTI), one of the largest travel companies in Indonesia with more than 51 outlets and 800 employees across the archipelago nation. Of the move, Hiroyuki Takahashi, JTB president and CEO, said, “Moving forward, we will engage in full-fledged development of our business model, from one that has until now considered human interactions predominantly in terms of outbound travel from Japan, to a model that is global in outlook, with a focus on Asia.”
Then, last June, Brazil’s largest tour operator/travel agency—CVC—announced that it had retained JTB Americas to serve CVC’s customers New York, Florida and California in the United States. JTB already has subsidiaries in Brazil.
The Jonview—H.I.S. action must still be reviewed and approved by Canadian government authorities, although there was no evidence at the time of the announcement of the acquisition that there were any real obstacles to the transaction.