The boss of Kuoni has re-asserted its commitment to the trade and promised it won’t “walk away like Virgin Holidays”.

UK managing director Derek Jones said the company was not after “world domination” with its retail network, set to reach 50 stores by the end of the year.

Speaking after the release of Kuoni’s Travel Trends report at an event last week, Jones said in the long-term, he did not see Kuoni operating more than 60 stores nationwide, including its concessions in John Lewis.

“Retail was never about becoming a pure retail player, it was about giving Kuoni a face”, he said. “But we could work with more travel agents.
“We’re not there to undercut them. They have got customers they have worked hard to service so we’re not interested in stealing them. I would rather pay them a reasonable reward. We will continue to guarantee that we won’t undercut them and walk away like Virgin.”

The operator has recently signed deals for shops in Leeds city centre and Intu The Glades shopping Centre in Bromley.

The company also has 11 agent partners, which Jones said came about “over a lunch”. He did not rule out new partnerships and said they were considered on a case by case basis as opposed to set targets.

During the event, the company revealed that European holiday bookings were up 30% compared to 2014, while the total number of short-haul bookings in January were higher than those to the Caribbean or the Far East.

Commenting on Cuba, Kuoni’s vice president commercial and product management Mark Duguid said the island had already changed dramatically since restoring diplomatic ties with the US.

“On the ground we’re seeing increased numbers of travellers and that’s before commercial airlines start flying,” he said. “It’s only going to get more challenging. We are at the point now where the destination is fundamentally changing.”

Kuoni also revealed it now has 10 LGBT specialists working on its website which advise same sex couples on the legal and cultural positions of different destinations.

Duguid said legislation on LGBT rights is often a good indicator but “local customs are key” as society does not always “keep pace with lawmakers”.