Kuoni boss Derek Jones says the tour operator’s new online venture remains “on track” for a summer launch - and said the business had the backing of German parent DER Touristik if it were to pursue further brand acquisitions.
Jones this week told TTG Kuoni’s move to its new Dorking office heralded a “new era” for the brand, now fully co-located with DER Touristik UK: “We’ve been on quite a journey over the past 10 years,” said Jones, who joined Kuoni in 2008 and was managing director during DER Touristik’s 2015 takeover.
“We’ve gone from a very traditional long-haul tour operator to a major retail presence,” he said. “Our ambition now is to grow in the UK and invest more in our brands - it finally feels like we are looking to the future rather than the past.
“We have built a good relationship with our new owners, and we are ambitious. I think [the move] is quite timely. The new office will create a whole new environment for us.”
Back in February, Kuoni announced a new, still yet unnamed online brand, its first for a decade, designed to bridge the gap between package travel and tailor-made travel.
Initially slated for a late-June launch, Jones said venture would revisit Kuoni’s previous unsuccessful attempts at online modular packaging, geed on advances in web technology.
“I can confirm it’s still on track,” said Jones. “It’s coming in the next three to four months - certainly within four months.”
Jones though said while Kuoni was satisfied with the size of its retail operation, currently hovering around the 50 store mark, the group may yet pursue further acquisitions to bolster its brand portfolio. Kirker Holidays, Jules Verne and Carrier, like Kuoni, are all subsidiaries of DER Touristik UK.
“We always look to build our own brands,” said Jones. “But if the opportunity came up through an acquisition, we would have the backing of our owner.
“We have a very clear brand strategy. While we [DER Touristik] nurture them, we want them to live alone and have their own identities. It’s a fine line, but everyone gets it.”
On retail, Jones added: “We don’t plan to grow retail significantly. We have a good base. We never planned to be massive. We don’t want to be ubiquitous.
“Every three to five years, high streets come and go. We are happy with our size and shape. We’re flexible.”
Tuesday saw Dorking-based Kuoni finally relocate to its new state-of-the-art offices, christened Touristik House, after more than 40 years at Kuoni House in Deepdene Avenue.
“We loved it there and the views [of the Surrey Hills] were beautiful,” said Jones. “But it was built in a different era and we had become very restricted there.
“What we have created over three floors is an open, modern, flexible and collaborative workspace. It offers so many different ways to work and settings to work in.
“We have people who have been with us for 20 years working alongside millennials who have different ideas about how they like to work.
“It gives our staff freedom to choose how they want to work. It’s set up to reflect a modern working environment.”
The move wasn't completely plain sailing though after
Some 241 members of Kuoni and DER Touristik UK staff will now call Touristik House home, with the building also set to serve as the main training and development base for Kuoni’s retail team and its travel agent partners.
“This is day one of a new era for the business as part of the DER Touristik group,” Jones added. “We’ve designed the new office to be a fun, dynamic and inspiring space to work, learn and develop.”
From the graffiti walls to the brightly coloured tuk-tuk in reception, Jones said he wanted Touristik House not only to feel like home for employees, but the group’s wide network of partners.
Other features include the cafe and deli bar, complete with pool table, and the central courtyard that can be used for outdoor events and meetings.
Jones said DER Touristik “treasured” its partners, and invited them to consider the new premises their home as well: “It’s for everyone,” he said.
“We would be delighted to welcome our partners along to work with us. We hope its a place they can feel proud of.”