Dnata among interested suitors for UK unit of Swiss travel agent

Emirates Group's ground handling company dnata is among a handful of investors keen on buying the UK unit of the Swiss travel agent Kuoni, The Telegraph reported yesterday in London.

The luxury tour operator, founded in 1906, announced last month it was looking to sell its UK unit to focus on government travel and business services.

Dnata declined to comment yesterday.

Kuoni’s UK operations include the customised holiday specialist Carrier, short break specialist Kirker, tour operator Voyage Jules Verne, accommodation provider CV Villas, and luxury private and escorted group tour provider Journeys of Distinction. Through these units Kuoni UK sells holidays to more than 80 destinations worldwide. It also has 35 Kuoni-branded shops in the UK, including 10 at John Lewis department stores.

Traditional travel agencies such as Kuoni and Thomas Cook have faced stiff competition in recent times from online travel sites.

The proportion of turnover accounted for by its traditional tour operating business has decreased from 75 per cent in 2010, to 41 per cent in 2013, according to Kuoni Travel Group. Accommodation and visa processing services, through its unit VFS Global, contribute a majority of the business for the Kuoni Group.

Zurich-listed Kuoni Group reported a turnover of 3.4 billion Swiss francs (Dh13.47bn) last year, down from 5.6bn francs in 2013.

Last month, Thomas Cook identified a ramp-up of its digital business as vital to its survival because more customers were turning to the web to research and purchase their holidays.

In February last year, Thomas Cook sold Gold Medal, a UK-based distributor of long-haul scheduled flights, hotels and car hire, to dnata for £45 million (Dh251.7m) to cut its losses. The deal included online travel agent netflights.com and Pure Luxury.

The Dubai group also added Stella Travel Services, including TravelBag, Travel2, Sunmaster, Global Travel Group and Triton Rooms brands in September last year.

In 2012, dnata signed a joint venture with Travel Counsellors, which designs holiday packages. The previous year it acquired the major UK online travel agent Travel Republic.


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