• New Thomas Cook OTA expected at any moment. About a year to the day (Sept. 23, 2019) that it collapsed, the tour operator Thomas Cook, it has been reported, is about to be revived by its new ownership, the Chinese conglomerate Fosun, which acquired the Thomas Cook brand last November for £11 million ($14 million). The acquisition also included Cook’s hotel brands Casa Cook and Cook’s Club, in addition to rights, title and interest in certain trademarks, domain names, software applications, social media accounts and licenses. Fosun’s portfolio of tourism interests also includes Club Med. As a part of its preparation for a Thomas Cook reboot, published accounts report, Fosun has retained a team of tourism industry professionals who are ready to launch and operate the new OTA.
• Saga’s Former Owner Trying to Save Brand: Sir Roger de Haan, the former owner of Saga is returning to the over-50s travel and insurance group by investing £100 million ($128 million) to shore up the company’s finances. Sir Roger, who sold Saga for £1.35 billion ($1.73 billion) in 2004, injected the funds in return for a 20 percent stake in the company, which suffered a pre-tax loss of £55.5 million ($71 million) in the six months up to July 31 after a £60 million ($77 million) impairment charge in its travel business as COVID-19 hit its operations.
Alongside his investment, Sir Roger joins the Saga board and serves as non-executive chairman, taking over from Patrick O’Sullivan, for an expected term of three years. In a statement, the company said: “The proposed equity raise is intended to strengthen the company’s financial position against the backdrop of the Covid-19 outbreak and the ongoing suspension of travel and to better position Saga for longer-term recovery and growth.” De Haan, whose father Sidney founded Saga in 1948, took over the business in 1984 before selling it to a management buyout team funded by the private equity group Charterhouse.
• Former STA Travel branch manager launches a specialist youth travel brand. Arron Mitchell, director of travel agency Platinum World Travel, says the new company Syte (an acronym for Student & Youth Travel Escapes) will target “18-30-ish” clients. The unstated hope is that Syte will fill a void created with the closure of STA Travel, a specialist youth travel agency and tour operator with 49 retail stores. STA, which was owned by Diethelm Keller Holding, with headquarters in Zurich and London, had almost 2,000 employees working in over 200 stores worldwide. Last month, the Swiss parent company filed for insolvency.
• Michael Barkoczy, one of the most widely known executive-level professionals in Brazil’s travel and tourism industry, has launched his new travel company— Easy Travel Shop (ETS), populating it with some other well-known senior management types. Barkoczy, who served as director of international for CVC for nearly a dozen years, then as president of the tour operator FlytourMMT Travel, had been operating his own consultancy for nearly two years before launching the new company, which will focus on selling tours and activities. Barkoczy told the Brazilian trade publication PANROTAS, “Our focus is on tours, tickets, attractions, experiences … We will have day use in hotels, but not room night.”
• Hays Travel acquires Tailor Made Travel after the latter folds. The deal will cover Tailor Made’s retail estate of 20 shops and about 100 employees. A statement from Tailor Made, said “Hays Travel had been contacted and made an expression of interest. Our offer to acquire all 20 shops was agreed, as was the retention of approximately 100 employees, late Friday afternoon (September 4th).” Three weeks ago, Tailor Made Travel chief executive Simon Morgan indicated that he was planning to close 15 of the Welsh business’s 20 stores in order to save the company.
Speaking after administration and subsequent acquisition of his business, he said that the experience was “devastating, but I take consolation in the fact that this protects the future of the 100 employees.” Hays Travel, meanwhile, has continued with its expansion plans—even during the COVID-19 crisis, including the opening of its 50th shop in Scotland. Hays also plans to open a Glasgow office to support its growing tour operation.