Der Touristik UK’s chief has hinted at further acquisitions in the year ahead, as well as additional Kuoni openings.
Speaking at the launch of Kuoni’s Worldwide Travel Report on Monday (February 25), Derek Jones said Der Touristik UK “wasn’t done” in the M&A space.
He said after the company bought Journey Latin America last year, sales had been going “from strength to strength”.
“This is a good example of how we work together as a group of businesses… our retail stores are already selling JLA product and, interestingly, we have also grown our [Kuoni’s] own Latin America business,” said Jones. “That reflects the ambition of the group. We haven’t finished.
“The M&A scene is difficult and sometimes it just depends what comes along at what time and whether it’s a good fit.
“We remain open to opportunities and, as this year progresses, hopefully we’ll be able to add to that list and stand here next year with some additional news and a bigger distribution portfolio.”
Jones also updated the media on Kuoni’s retail network, which now stands at 49 stores including the addition last week of a concession in the Trafford Centre’s John Lewis.
“That [number] is pretty much the size and scale we wanted it to be,” he insisted.
“That John Lewis partnership goes from strength to strength. We will continue to open inside them where the opportunities become available.
“There are three or four live opportunities we’re considering at the moment. It’s not a finished piece of work and the same is true of our high street stores.
“We’ll continue to refresh the network that we have, but if a great opportunity turns up we’re happy to go into additional stores because the face of shopping is changing; it’s becoming much more experiential.”
Jones added Kuoni continued to invest in its click and connect strategy to take an online user and put them in touch with an adviser local to them who’s also an expert in the destination they want to travel to.
“We’re getting a lot smarter at that now and can tell exactly where in the country a person is when they log into the website and what they’re looking at,” said Jones.
“More customers are making appointments and for us that’s brilliant. If they make an appointment in one of our stores the likelihood of them booking is 70%.
“We will continue to invest in the high street and our click and connect strategy.”
Jones acknowledged challenges would continue to evolve, however.
“We’ll have to up our game in terms of competing with alternative sources of information available to people," he said.
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking leaps and bounds forward in terms of facts and information. The bit we think AI will really struggle with though is opinions and passion and personal knowledge that comes from visiting a destination. Those human characteristics are really difficult to replicate.”
Elsewhere, Jones updated the room on Der Touristik UK’s new B2C brand, Meraki Travel, launched last year. The website is now fully functioning with six destinations loaded and 14,000 unique itineraries available to book.
“Early indications are it’s a much younger audience interested in this,” said Jones. “We’re already transacting but it is going to take a while to grow now that we’ve built it.
“We’re going to invest in lots of pay per click and marketing to drive traffic to that brand. We’re really proud of it.”