Dnata Travel Group is to take over Etihad Holidays’ UK sales and service, ground product and brand marketing functions, making it primarily direct-sell.
Dnata said the deal “will significantly increase Etihad Holidays’ distribution power in this market”, with holidays for 2020 and 2021 already on sale. Etihad Holidays will be sold primarily online and through its UK contact centre.
A dnata spokesperson said: “Initially, the focus will be for Etihad Holidays to be a direct brand, although we’re also aiming to work with the bigger deals publishers. However, we don’t discount selling through agents in the future.”
The division will be led by Lisa Balsom, the new head of Etihad Holidays UK at dnata Travel Group. She joins from The Residence by Cenizaro where she was director of marketing UK, Europe, Russia and the Middle East, having also held senior roles with LUX* Resorts, dnata, Jumeirah and British Airways.
The deal comes as the Abu Dhabi-based airline group seeks to cut costs. Etihad reported a $870 million deficit for 2019 and has lost more than $5.6 billion in the last four years.
The initial focus for the operator will be to promote Abu Dhabi and Hareb Al Muhairy, Etihad’s senior vice president destination and leisure management, said: “We look forward to welcoming travellers to our home, Abu Dhabi, when the world is ready to travel again. Dnata Travel Group will act as the essential link between Etihad Holidays and the consumer, while providing full support of our marketing and distribution activities in the UK.
Dnata Travel Europe chief executive John Bevan said: “For a number of years, Etihad Holidays has offered a comprehensive range of packages to Abu Dhabi and beyond, including the Middle and Far East, Indian Ocean and Australia.
"Our focus is to grow from that strong foundation and use our tour operating and brand-building expertise to further increase arrival numbers into the UAE capital and broaden the range and choice of destinations and products available.”