Tui AG to reduce stake in Hapag-Lloyd

German travel giant Tui AG’s stake in container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd will drop to 13.9% following a tie-up with Chilean firm Compania SudAmericana de Vapores.

Tui, which also controls Europe’s largest tour operator Tui Travel, currently owns 22% of Hapag-Lloyd.

The shareholding will drop first to 15% as part of the merger and then to 13.9% because Tui will not participate in a planned capital increase.

The deal between Vapores and Hapag-Lloyd will create the world’s fourth-largest container-shipping company.

Tui, which has long planned to exit container shipping, will also get priority placement rights for its remaining stake as part of Hapag-Lloyd’s planned stock market flotation in 2015, it said in an internal letter seen by Reuters.

Google’s Dan Robb to join Tui Travel mainstream division

Google’s Dan Robb to join Tui Travel mainstream divisionTui Travel has appointed Google’s industry head of travel Dan Robb as the first digital marketing director for its mainstream sector.

Robb will join Tui on July 1 and will target driving the mainstream division’s digital marketing and “growing the group’s position as a leading digital business”.

Nick Longman, managing director of distribution and online for Tui’s mainstream sector, said: “Digital marketing is core to our digital and online modernisation strategy.  It is therefore important that we have the very best people in the business to make sure we capitalise on the opportunities available to us.

“Dan brings with him a wealth of experience and is uniquely placed to ensure we get the most out of our relationship both with Google and other leading digital companies.”

Robb said: “I am delighted to be joining Tui Travel. The group is at an exciting point in its digital journey and I look forward to bringing my experience to the team and helping to further drive its digital growth.

“While I will miss Google and the great team we have in Google Travel, this is a fantastic opportunity and I look forward to joining in July.”

Robb has worked at Google for the last nine years, leading the development and growth of the search engine giant’s travel team. Before that, he worked at Associated News for seven years.

Robin Frewer, director of travel and finance at Google, said: “Dan has made a fantastic contribution and has played an important role in educating the industry over the past nine years. This is an opportunity for him and also reflects Tui’s understanding that digital will become ever more important for their business.

“Dan will challenge the Tui business and encourage it to move at a greater pace.”

Frewer said that he had previously hosted Tui Travel chief executive Peter Long and mainstream managing director Johan Lundgren at Google’s head office in San Francisco, as the travel giant looked to develop its digital strategy.

And he confirmed that Ru Roberts had been appointed internally as Robb’s replacement: “There are always succession plans in place at Google, and Ru will be heading up our ‘holidays team’ and leading our relationships with the tour operators. Dan is a senior member of the team, but we have some excellent people in place and some new faces coming in to ensure there is a seamless transition.”

Cruising Excursions out to cause waves with international expansion

By Travolution
By Travolution

Two-and-a-half years after introducing its disruptive start-up model in the world of cruise, UK-based is poised to expand its international reach.The firm, which will turn over £6 million this year, has created new websites for the Germany, French and Dutch markets and expects to make a splash after seeing considerable growth in the UK.

Having agreed deals with the UK’s big two, Thomas Cook and Tui Travel, the firm has seen sales increase 400% this year, double what it had projected.

It turned a profit last year according to accounts filed last September and is now out of its start-up phase and a fully sustainable business, founder and managing director Simon Purchase told Travolution.

He was in London this week to meet with the technology firm Correl8 which built the existing website and has created its second version including its international sites in just eight weeks.

Purchase admitted at first it was a hard slog convincing agents to feature his product, but the signing of the big two was a turning point.

“We have had a very successful couple of years. It’s gone round in a circle to the point where people are asking us whether they can take product.

“With Thomas Cook and Tui Travel now offering excursions to their passengers, customer are now asking their agents if they can do their excursions.”

Purchase said agents have also been forced to seek out additional revenue opportunities since cruise lines cut commission to agents – the UK’s leading operators by as much as 10%.

With 10,000 tours in 700 ports worldwide, Cruising Excursions believes it is well ahead of any potential rivals in a sector tipped as the next battle ground for disruptive technology.

Behind the business, however, is more than just fancy technology it has contracted its own tours and organises its own transfers to give it control over the product.

The firm’s entry into the sector has seen local tour guides and operators previously frozen out by the major lines able to grab a slice of a growing and lucrative market.

At the same time a market that was sewn up by the operators has been broken open, offering customers significant savings on their on-shore activities.

Cruising Excursions now claims to have 8% of the UK cruise market of 1.7 million annual cruisers. It had originally targeted hitting 2% after two years.

Purchase said trade distribution has played a key part in the firm’s growth, rising from just 10% at the outset to 50% today.

European expansion isn’t Cruising Excursions first foray overseas; it already has a health business to consumer operation in the US and has just signed with Harvey World Travel in Australia.

But Purchase said he expects its latest expansion will cause further ripples among operators who are seeing good growth in cruise in Europe particularly in Germany, the second-biggest market.

“When I started this business I never thought there was this much money in excursions. The dramatic growth from direct and agents has been incredible in comparison to what we budgeted for.

“I’m obviously very pleased with the company’s success and am driving the business forward in the future to inhibit potential competitors.

“This sector has been a closed shop for 20 years. The cruise lines have never put their prices down they have always put them up. What do they expect?”

Cruise Excursions plans to launch an app that will allow customer to book their cruises while they are away, up to a day in advance.

It has also developed an API although this is not being used widely to date, most agents approaching shore excursions as an after sale add-on rather than inserting them into the booking flow.

The firm also hopes to add pre- and post-cruise trips, something failed rival Shorex set out offering but was unable to make work.

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