German travel group Dertour targets UK expansion

One of Germany’s largest travel companies plans to grab a larger share of the UK market but has ruled out expanding its travel agency chain.

The Deutsches Reisebüro (DER) group has 600 of its own shops and 600 franchises in Germany and owns tour operator Dertour, Germany’s market leading long-haul tour operator. In Germany the company has an annual turnover of €1.7 billion.

It aims to expand its Dertour tour operation in the UK by making its entire portfolio of worldwide product available through independent agents within three years. As Germany’s largest hotel broker, this would give UK agents access to 20,000 hotels.

The 100-year-old company, part of Rewe Group’s travel division, has been operating in the UK for 50 years but Dertour is only known to the UK trade as a Germany specialist. It recently expanded its offering to dynamically packaged city breaks across Europe, bookable through the new travel agent portal on its website.

Chief executive Michael Frese, speaking at an event to mark its half-century of trading in the UK, said the company now intended to establish a much bigger foothold in the UK market.

He said: “We want to slowly and carefully build our reputation as a loyal partner to the UK travel agent with a high-quality worldwide programme. We know there is a large number of independent agents who would like to work with a mutual partner.”

But he admitted: “It’s going to be a challenge, for sure. The UK market is very sophisticated and works in a highly professional way. We do not have a plan to open a chain of agencies in the UK but we want to expand progressively and we are in this for the long haul. We have very competitively-priced products that can be combined with flights worldwide.”

He refused to reveal specific targets, but added: “We won’t be as big as we are in Germany but we definitely need to have a turnover which allows us to have an operation in England.”

The operator intends to develop its brand within the trade and has no intention of courting UK consumers direct, he said.

Dertour is also the general sales agent for the Olympics 2012 committee in Germany and has already sold 5,000 tickets to the event to UK consumers. Frese believes this could rise to 10,000. In total the operator has an allocation of 70,000 tickets for the games.

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