Tui expects to sell its Travelopia group of specialist operators in the first quarter of next year.

Will Waggott, chief executive of Travelopia, said Tui will start formally marketing the business, which comprises more than 50 brands, in the next three weeks.

Speaking at a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast on mergers and acquisitions, Waggott said: “We should have the marketing tools out by the end of September.

“I would hope to close a deal in the first quarter of next year.”

Interest so far had been higher from private equity firms than trade buyers, he said.

Tui this week completed the sale of its Hotelbeds subsidiary for €1.19 billion to Cinven Capital Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Asked how much he thought Travelopia could fetch, Waggott said: “We are just finishing the numbers for a three-year business plan. I have absolutely no idea [how much it will be sold for] but I doubt it will be €1.2 billion.”

Tui has already signalled its intention to sell Travelopia as one entity rather than allow buyers to “cherry-pick” businesses, which include Jetsave, Citalia, Austravel, Sunsail and Hayes & Jarvis.

But Waggott said: “Tui wants to sell it as one. If someone turns up with a huge sum of money, I can’t predict what will happen. It will probably be [sold] for the best price.”

Once sold, Travelopia plans to invest in technology, customer relationship management, and new stock such as catamarans and ships for Antarctic expeditions.

Tui’s Crystal Ski and Thomson Lakes & Mountains brands are not part of Travelopia and are being transferred from the former Specialist Group back to the mainstream Tui business.