Kuoni’s new owner vows to retain brand and invest

Kuoni’s German owner DER Touristik said the UK brand would retain its “individuality”, following its €110 million takeover last September.

In an exclusive interview with Travel Weekly, the company’s chief executive Sören Hartmann said he was “totally against centralisation”.

He pledged to invest in the UK, opening more shops and building the tour operating business.

“We will not centralise things,” said Hartmann. “We’ll keep the different brands. We’ll keep the individuality of the different markets. We are trying to be close to clients. We are not about having one brand, having centralised everything. You can’t compare us with Tui or Thomas Cook.”

Referring to Kuoni UK head Derek Jones, Hartmann insisted: “Derek is responsible with his team for all the activities in the UK and it will stay like this.” Asked what changes staff might see, he said: “None. I don’t have the feeling we need to change something.”

Describing DER Touristik as “a partner with a good financial base”, he said: “We are willing to invest in the UK. We have to invest in more shops, we have to invest in the tour operating business, and that is what Derek will do.”

DER Touristik is an umbrella brand in Germany where it’s a major operator and retailer, but it has no plans to extend this to the UK.

Hartmann said: “It’s not a tour operating brand. It just appears as an endorsement in Germany. At the moment, Kuoni is the stronger brand in the UK. I wouldn’t see any sense in it [in the UK]. Derek can show suppliers and everybody that he belongs to a strong group if it makes sense.”

At the same time, Hartmann stressed the value of high street agents to a group that has 2,100 agencies in Germany.

“We strongly believe in shops on the level Kuoni has in the UK. People spend a lot of money and want a recommendation,” he said.

The group is running what it describes as “a huge TV campaign” in Germany to promote its ‘expert network’ and is close to rolling out an in-house system for connecting an agent in one shop to a customer in another.

“This is the core idea of the DER Touristik Group,” said Hartmann. “We want to bring the know-how of the agencies to the internet and have functions where people can chat over the web with an agent who has knowledge about the Maldives or Kenya, to connect this knowledge and all the agencies.”

Rules on price parity ensure agents still command 80% of sales in Germany.

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