Emirates Airline buys UK travel agent

Dnata, the world's fourth biggest air services provider, has taken a majority stake in Travel Republic, the UK's largest privately owned online travel agency.

Dnata, which is part of the Emirates Group, has purchased the UK company Travel Republic. Emmanuel Dunand / AFP
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Dnata, the holidays and baggage handling arm of Emirates Airline, has bought control of one of the biggest online travel agents in Britain.


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The deal struck at the end of last month for an undisclosed sum is the latest in a buying spree of travel firms by Dnata asit seeks to strengthen its position in the lucrative online travel market.

The acquisition of Travel Republic also has the potential to channel more UK traffic through the Dubai company. More than two million people a year book their holidays through Travel Republic's website.

"Travel Republic will complement our existing leisure and corporate travel services in Dubai and internationally," said Iain Andrew, the divisional senior vice president of Dnata's travel business.

"The company has an impressive, dynamic management team and I can be confident that together we can further develop the business, in line with the outstanding service and quality for which Dnata is renowned."

Part of the Emirates Group and wholly owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai, Dnata has more than 20,000 employees involved in ground handling, flight catering and IT services, spread across 76 airports around the world.

Over a six-year period Dnata has managed to increase revenues fourfold and went from being a company primarily focused on Dubai to a global aviation firm.

Travel Republic has an impressive track record having built its business around increasing demand from people to book their travel online, independent of traditional tour operators.

Since its launch in 2003, Travel Republic has grown steadily to become one of a handful of travel agents to dominate the online market in the UK alongside Expedia and Lastminute.com.

It recorded an increase of more than 40 per cent in its annual turnover for last year to £400 million (Dh2.29 billion). Focused on the UK market until recently, the company has expanded its operations abroad. It has launched sites in Ireland, Spain and Italy and is mulling expansion across the rest of Europe in a bid to become one of the largest travel companies in the region.

Dnata said it would use the strength of its global travel network to expand Travel Republic's business by offering a broader range of destinations.

Travel Republic offers users of its website a choice of 120,000 hotels, and flights with some 100 airlines to 650 destinations worldwide.

"We are excited that Travel Republic has joined the Dnata family" said Kane Pirie, the managing director of Travel Republic. "Dnata is forward-thinking and ambitious and will help accelerate our growth across Europe and beyond."

Dnata has been on the acquisition trail in recent years to diversify into new businesses and geographies.

In 2008 it purchased a 23 per cent share in the worldwide corporate travel company Hogg Robinson Group and made a 49 per cent acquisition of the global outsource provider Mind Pearl.

In December 2010, the firm acquired the in-flight caterer Alpha Flight, extending the company's reach to a greater number of airports.

Dnata said the latest deal represented one of the biggest business transactions in the firm's 52-year history.

The move is a recognition of the rapid rise of online travel agencies at the expense of long-established high-street operators.

Thomas Cook, one of the biggest names in the UK travel industry, plans to shut 200 stores after last month posting a pre-tax loss of £398m for the year to September.

Dnata said the Travel Republic branding would be maintained under its acquisition, which came into effect last Wednesday.

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