Kuoni has ruled out a bid for First Choice’s tour operating division – but managing director Sue Biggs expects there will be consolidation this year.

Speaking at the launch of the operator’s 2007 long-haul report, Biggs stressed Kuoni was not in the running to buy the company, despite reports talks had taken place last year.

She said: “We are not buying First Choice. But I think consolidation is likely to come among the big four.”

Following the acquisitions of Journeys of Distinction and Kirker Holidays last year, Biggs said Kuoni is looking to make further acquisitions of specialist operators.

Last weekend saw a significant upsurge in bookings, said Biggs, who credited independent agencies for driving sales. “The resurgence of the independent agent has been very noticeable,” she said. “They are very customer focused. It’s not about what the tour operator or travel company wants to push, it’s what the customer wants and that’s what independents know.”