fvw Interview

Thomas Cook CEO explains Aldiana investment and Expedia partnership

Thomas Cook’s strategic deals with club holiday operator Aldiana and online travel retailer Expedia will broaden the group’s portfolio and create new synergies, CEO Peter Fankhauser told fvw in an interview.

October 04, 2017
Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser is sealing strategic partnerships
Photo: Christian Wyrwa

Europe’s second-largest tourism group has announced two major agreements in the last few weeks. It is buying a 42% stake in German club holiday specialist Aldiana and has sealed an outsourcing partnership with Expedia for its city trips programme.

Fankhauser said that the Aldiana investment would enable Cook to offer its resorts “as a premium club brand” alongside its existing portfolio of six different hotel brands. In addition, Cook would be able to expand its hotel portfolio through a joint fund with Aldiana majority owner LMEY.

“The platform will be created with at least five own properties of LMEY and ourselves with a value of about €170 million and then turned into a fund that will buy hotels in our destinations,” he explained. Cook’s hotel portfolio could increase from the current 190 properties to about 250 in future, with more hotels under own management than in the past.

Fankhauser said the planned joint hotel investments with Chinese shareholder Fosun had not started as originally planned due to changes at Fosun. “Therefore we are now building up a hotel investment platform here in Europe with LMEY. Fosun is a central partner for us in the establishment of Thomas Cook China.”

In terms of the Expedia partnership, Fankhauser said Thomas Cook wants to “concentrate on where we are really strong – the sun & beach business”.

The partnership with Expedia will enable Cook to offer a wide range of city trips while reducing complexity and costs, he explained. Through Expedia, Thomas Cook will be able to offer 65,000 hotels in total in future.

About 20% of Cook’s customers, some two million travellers, book city trips or self-drive holidays, Fankhauser disclosed.

On other topics, the Thomas Cook CEO declined to comment on the decision of rival TUI to re-brand its main British tour operator Thomson to TUI. However, he commented: “The Thomas Cook brand is becoming better known across Europe. But we believe in our local heroes such as Neckermann Reisen (in Germany) or Tjaereborg, Spies and Ving in Scandinavia.”

Separately, in another strategic partnership Thomas Cook Group Airlines and Canada’s Air Transat have agreed an aircraft exchange deal for the winter season for the next seven years. Several A321s from Thomas Cook will operate short-haul flights from Canada to the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida, while Transat will provide at least one wide-body A330-200 plane for long-haul flights from Europe.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook Germany has increased hotel capacity in various destinations in Asia, the Indian Ocean and East Africa in response to the impact of hurricanes on tourism infrastructure and demand for the Caribbean. However, the tour operator is stressing that holidays in Cuba and the Dominican Republic are now taking place normally again.

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