—Family-Owned Travel Company Buys Thomas Cook Stores. Little known outside the UK until recently, Hays Travel, a large family-owned travel agency, has acquired all 555 stores of the defunct Thomas Cook on Oct. 8 and had opened some of them by last week’s end. In the coming days, Hays Travel has promised to re-open every one of the Thomas Cook’s stores and indicates that it will have jobs for Cook’s 2,500 retail staff. Hays Travel is owned by husband and wife John Hays, aged 70, and 65-year-old Irene, and was already the UK’s biggest independent travel agent with 190 shops, employing around 1,700 people and turnover of more than £1 billion ($1.26 billion) a year. In addition to the stores, it has a network of around 240 travel agents who work from home, selling holidays from their laptops. It also owns Hays Travel Independence Group, a consortium of independent travel agents which trade under their own names but benefit from Hays’s buying power. The company was founded by John Hays in 1980 from the back of his mother’s children’s clothes shop in Seaham, County Durham.
—Meanwhile, Thomas Cook India is alive and well, but it might change its name: Activity in the wake of the collapse of the globally known Thomas Cook had Thomas Cook India working hard to let the travel trade know that it was (and still is) alive and well. The latter—which was acquired in 2012 by Canada-based Fairfax Financial Holdings—put out a statement which said, “Thomas Cook PLC (UK) has no relationship with Thomas Cook India as we were acquired by Canada based Fairfax Financial Holdings (Fairfax) in 2012. We are completely independent of Thomas Cook UK & hence the news of their situation does not impact us. Please be reassured that all your bookings and transactions will continue to be smooth and we look forward to having you enjoy your trip with Thomas Cook India.” The less-than-favorable mention of the failed Thomas Cook by the global news media may, however, persuade the Indian brand to change its name. Madhavan Menon, chairman and managing director, told the Indian business magazine Business Today that, while the company has the right to use the brand name “Thomas Cook” till 2024, it could review the matter in coming days.
DER Touristik Expands its Corporate Borders: Exim Holding, the Czech subsidiary of DER Touristik, Germany’s second largest tour operator group (it has claimed, at times, to be the number one long-haul operator) has acquired CK (Cestovní kancelář) Fischer. A purchase price was not disclosed for the purchase, which is subject to the approval of antitrust authorities. Once approved, the acquisition will double the size of the DER Touristik’s business in the Czech Republic. Exim and CK Fischer are both profitable and each has turnover of about €230 million ($254 million). DER Touristik Group will retain the management teams of both companies. Exim Holding, part of DER Touristik Group since 2012, operates under two main tour operator brands Exim Tours (Czech Republic and Poland) and Kartago Tours (Slovakia and Hungary). Earlier this year, DER Touristik Group bought two Romanian tourism businesses—Nova Travel, Danubius Travel and Touring Europabus through Exim Holding. DER Touristik is a part of the REWE Group, which has multiple brands in different economic sectors; it is, for instance, the second largest supermarket chain in Germany. (A note: New World Travel, a leading receptive tour operator in the United States, is a subsidiary of DER Touristik.)
—Cox & Kings Closes Australia, New Zealand Operations: A company with a-more-than 250-year history, is close to shutting down itself, news media reports indicate. India-based tour and travel company Cox and Kings Ltd is in deep financial trouble. It has defaulted on most of its debt repayment obligations since June. And just before the collapse of Thomas Cook, which received much more attention, Cox & Kings closed its Australia and New Zealand operations. A source told the travel news publication Skift said that the company has started informing clients that the firm doesn’t have funds to pay for hotels, and that Cox and Kings has also stopped marketing in India and not receiving fresh bookings. The same news report also indicated that MakeMyTrip, Thomas Cook India and Abercrombie & Kent are among the firms rumored to be considering Cox & Kings’ acquisition. Established in 1758, the company, is headquartered in India and, prior to the failure of its Australia and New Zealand units, had operations spread across 22 countries and 4 continents.
—The Swiss company Hotelplan Group is entering the German tour and travel market with the acquisition of dynamic tour operator Vtours, an operator based in Aschaffenburg that only offers products from dynamic packaging. The Swiss group, which is headquartered near Zurich, is buying the German company, including its Vtours International subsidiary, for an undisclosed sum. Both Vtours and its subsidiary will continue to operate autonomously through their established names under the management of CEO Achim Schneider, the former owner, who told the German travel trade publication FVW: “With Vtours we have achieved a success story over the last 15 years, and we’re delighted to have a strong partner at our side for our future development … Through the merger, we can become active not only in Germany, Austria and Switzerland but throughout Europe, and benefit above all from the technological expertise of the Hotelplan Group.” Vtours, with 150 employees, generates annual turnover of more than €400 million ($442 million). The Hotelplan Group, with turnover of €1.3 billion ($1.435 billion) last year, is the largest Swiss-owned tourism group.