Specialist Group sale to fund hotel and cruise acquisitions by Tui

Specialist Group sale to fund hotel and cruise acquisitions by Tui

The Tui Group will use funds from the sale of its Specialist Group of tour operators to acquire more hotel and cruise assets.

Fritz Joussen, Tui chief executive, confirmed the plan to acquire further assets after announcing his intention to dispose of the Specialist Group on Wednesday.

He told Travel Weekly: “We want to be more content centric as a company. This is a transformation.”

The former Tui Travel, which merged with German-based Tui to form the group at the end of 2014, followed an asset-light strategy.

Announcing the start of the Specialist Group sales process, Joussen told analysts: “We are a growth company. We are not just about selling off stuff.

“We will talk about what we will spend the money on in our annual results in December. For now we focus on trading.”

But asked if this would mean the acquisition of more hotels and cruise ships, Joussen told Travel Weekly: “Absolutely. We will become more and more content centric.”

Joussen said the group’s own hotels and cruise ships already contribute “20% or more” to group profits “and this percentage will grow”.

Tui announced the €1.2 billion sale of accommodation wholesaler Hotelbeds at the end of April.

Explaining the decision to sell all the specialist brands bar Crystal Ski and Thomson Lakes and Mountains, Joussen said: “The specialist group has around 50 brands.

“They are brilliant brands – look at Hayes and Jarvis, look at Sunsail – brands for sailing, for Africa, for adventure.

“But they don’t use our Tui brand, they don’t use our IT, they don’t use our hotels, they don’t use our ships, they don’t use our airlines. It is not important that we are the owner. They could benefit by being independent.

“It is different with Crystal Ski and Thomson Lakes and Mountains. They are important drivers of winter occupancy for our aircraft. So they will be grouped in the UK business under [managing director] Nick Longman.”

Travel Weekly revealed on Wednesday that the specialist division would be rebranded Travelopia.

Joussen said: “It will potentially be called Travelopia. We know the brand is available – we own it.”

But he insisted the disposal process was not as advanced as might appear from some reports, although private equity investors are known to be interested.

Joussen said: “We still need to do some pre-deal restructuring – to form holding companies. We need to do the business case. It will take a little time before we can start the marketing.”

However, he added: “Right now we are very open [to expressions of interest]. Private equity money is there, but also a strategic buyer could be interested.”


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