Hotelplan brands ‘not affected’ by group sale, says chief

Hotelplan UK chief executive Joe Ponte has reassured agents that the operator’s brands are continuing as planned following news that its Swiss parent has put the travel business up for sale.

The Hotelplan Group, which owns Inghams, Explore, Esprit Ski, Santa’s Lapland and Inntravel, is part of Swiss conglomerate Migros, which announced the sale earlier this month. Ponte said news about closing the Esprit Ski family brand was not related to the sale, despite coming at the same time.

“[The sale process] doesn’t change anything for us in the way in which we deal with partners [and] suppliers,” he told a Travel Weekly webcast.

“All of our key strategies and key projects are continuing.”

More: Hotelplan UK withdraws family ski brand Esprit after 41 years

He added: “Migros very clearly articulated that they want to sell [Hotelplan Group] as a whole. “They will do their best, I believe, to find a really happy home for us with someone who will continue to invest in the great things we’ve been doing.

“That is certainly the intention, to sell it as one entity. [Migros] will look for the very best home for us.”

Asked about Esprit Ski, he said the timing was not linked to the Migros announcement because planning for a review had begun before news of the Hotelplan sale.

“The timing was simply unfortunate because it is easy to draw that connection,” he said.

He added: “[Inghams] is much bigger, 90% of the total of our ski, and it’s the one that we’ve invested significantly in.”

Ponte said the current ski season had gone “really well” and noted “a fair amount of discounts and deals” for the end of the winter, similar to pre-Covid patterns.

He said the Inghams Walking operation had seen success with its programme amid a “renaissance” in walking holidays.

Santa’s Lapland had another sell-out season, thanks in part to working with a theatrical consultant over the past two years to create a narrative for holidaymakers.

Explore is on track for another record year and has seen trade sales rise by 26% – thanks to its trade team and increasing confidence among agents to sell experiential holidays.

Walking specialist brand Inntravel is also wooing the trade and aims to announce retail partnerships “within one or two weeks”, he added.

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