Accommodation-only supplier Youtravel.com began life under its new German owners yesterday by offering a public apology to its suppliers and customers.
The bed bank has had well-publicised problems in the run-up to securing a deal with FTI Touristik for 85% of the company and was forced to request hoteliers to write off 30% of their debts.
Speaking in London alongside his new business partner Dietmar Gunz, chief executive of FTI Group, Youtravel founder and chief executive John Kent, said:
“I would like to apologise to suppliers for any problems caused by Youtravel. We faced some problems and we tried very hard to find solutions.
“I would personally like to apologise for any problems caused to our clients. I hope we have found a great partner in FTI.”
David Howell, Youtravel group managing director, added: “The last 12 months for all of us has been a very difficult time.
“We have been looking round the market to see where Youtravel should be positioned and for us becoming part of FTI is great news.
“It maybe not be well known in the UK market, but it is a fantastic travel company.
“We think we are the missing piece of the jigsaw from their perspective. It adds lots of value to us and we will be able to offer a better range of product to our partners going forward.
“We spent a long time looking for the right partner. We really do apologise to all our customers and all our suppliers for the problems we have caused, but we are really moving forward now.”
Gunz explained that Youtravel will give FTI’s Meeting Point International destination management arm, which has 18 bases around the world, a valuable business-to-business distributor presence.
He said FTI has a similar operation called Hotelshop but admitted “we have not been that successful”, and Youtravel would help FTI make inroads in the more dynamic travel sector more quickly.
“John has been one of our customers and we have talked over many years. He is already very advanced in a lot of areas.
“This was a great opportunity for us to integrate our businesses and match up our buying and servicing strength in destinations as part of the business.”
Gunz said Meeting Point looks after three million customers a year and already works with all the main players in the UK travel market, including the big two, Tui Travel and Thomas Cook.
Gunz said: “The customer needs to be serviced, whether he books the traditional away or the dynamic way. That, I think, is where we come in and Youtravel is the perfect match for us.
“We are not starting at close to zero but at a significant volume level.”
Although how much FTI paid for its stake in Youtravel have not been made public, Gunz dismissed industry speculation that the deal had anything to do with Youtravel’s debts.
The FTI Youtravel tie-up will allow it to expand its reach of destinations into areas where it is currently not strong, including long-haul destinations like Thailand.
And it will also be moving into new sector like cruise and ski, Youtravel having already started to load FTI and aiming to have added 6,000 properties to its product offering by the end of the year.
Kent said Youtravel will turn over close to £100 million this year and he expected significant growth in 2013. While the Youtravel brand will be taken more international there are no plans to pursue a business-to-consumer strategy.