Comment: Sunvil's Noel Josephides on the Planet acquisition

Comment: Sunvil's Noel Josephides on the Planet acquisition

By Noel Josephides, managing director of Sunvil Holidays

Over its 42-year history, Sunvil has grown both organically and through acquisition.

Sunvil’s purchase of Planet Holidays this month adds a new dimension. The company specialises in weddings and, to a certain extent, luxury hotels. Greece and Cyprus are its main areas of specialisation but here we have the potential to extend both programmes to new areas of Portugal and Italy, which are well-established Sunvil destinations.

We have experience of acquiring companies. In the early 1980s, we bought Sun Club Holidays, being interested in its charter programme to Corfu. The Sun Club range formed the basis of our now-considerable programme to Corfu and to the Greek mainland across the water. And in 1998 we purchased Villa Centre Holidays, trading as Greek Islands Club.

Although the Sun Club name disappeared when we purchased the company, the Greek Islands Club programme was substantially different to that of Sunvil so we retained the trading name.

Crucially, in connection with all three purchases, the management and individuals working within the companies were well known to us at Sunvil. Chris Wright, who worked for Greek Islands Club, is now its managing director and Sunvil’s operations director. Gus Romero, whom we inherited with Sun Club, remained with Sunvil for many years until his retirement.

With Planet Holidays, we have known Harry Kyrillou and Mathilde Robert for many years and both they and we are very familiar with our respective ranges.

Buying a company is more than just about the figures. It is important that the cultures match. Overheads are lowered, of course, but maintaining the distinctive style of each brand is vital. Harry and Mathilde will continue to run Planet and we would not have bought the company if their intention was to retire from day-to-day operations.

Current trading is not easy. The recession, the turmoil in the market and the gross overcapacity in flight seats and accommodation are millstones around the industry’s neck.

This year must be the most difficult for trading we have experienced since the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey in 1974.Niche specialisation is the key – it is the only way to combat the no-frills carriers, bed banks, dynamic packagers and flash sales specialists that have been allowed to grow unregulated over the past 12 years.

Sunvil’s product mix will enable us to survive the turbulence. This year is about treading water for us all, and looking forward to a more stable future.

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