Independent travel agency partners of Kuoni are pinning their hopes on the tour operator being bought by a private equity group.
The group announced its tour operating business was up for sale in January.
It is now in the final stages of negotiating a deal, with a handful of private equity groups rumoured to remain in the race to buy the UK business.
Speaking at Kuoni’s first summit for trade partners and specialist agents in Sri Lanka, partner agents said a private equity deal, as opposed to a trade buyer, would be less likely to impact the relationship they currently enjoy with the operator.
Full partner stores, known as Premium partners, use the Kuoni name over their door next to their own brand, while staff wear Kuoni uniforms. Shops are tasked with achieving £1 million in Kuoni sales over a three year period.
Jeanne Lally, co-owner of partner store Travel Bureau in Gosforth, said: “It would be naive not to be concerned [about the sale], you have to look to the future. It will down to who buys the business. I hope it’s private equity. It would be tougher for Kuoni because you would have someone breathing down your neck, but it would be better for us.”
Baldwins Travel Group joint managing director Nick Marks agreed: “I hope it’s private equity; it will be very different [if not].”
Head of Kuoni’s trade sales Amanda Darrington told agents she was hopeful a new owner would respect the relationships the operator has built up with its 48 partner stores and its 180 specialist agents.
She added: “When we pitched to prospective buyers we said we have got controllable distribution [our own shops] and business that comes in from our partners. One would hope that the prospective buyer would buy into what we are saying we are about.”
Darrington also reassured agents at the summit after recent trading figures showed booking levels for the Kuoni group globally were down 8% for the first five months of this year.
She said: “I would like to reassure agents. We have the best turn of year sales for a decade for the UK business and for the first five months of trading this year we are 8% up.”
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