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Looking After Customers, Improving Profitability

Switzerland – Market Region South Division

The Swiss market generated turn- over of CHF 797 million in 2010 (compared with CHF 821 million in 2009). The economic upswing that followed the worldwide financial crisis only started to have a positive effect on bookings in the second half of 2010. While turnover was maintained at roughly the previous year’s level, operating earnings (EBIT) went up to CHF 8.3 million from the CHF 1.5 million posted in 2009. Underlying EBIT amounted to CHF 13.7 million. This improvement is due partly to increased margins and partly to cost savings. Margins improved in the high-volume tour operating business run under the Kuoni and Helvetic Tours brands in particular and had a positive effect on earnings. Higher turnover at Kuoni’s own travel agencies in Switzerland also boosted earnings.

The ash cloud caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland in April 2010 and the violent clashes witnessed in Greece and Thailand, as well as the economic uncertainty and the football World Cup in June 2010, all had a negative effect on demand from customers in Switzerland. By contrast, the strong Swiss franc, especially in the second half of the year, boosted bookings for holidays to Europe and the USA.

Market Management (Tour Operating): efficient new organisation introduced

One of the main developments within the Market Region during the year was the introduction of new processes following the reorganisation of the Kuoni Group. The new global Procurement and Production Unit took over the purchasing of hotel and land arrangements at holiday destinations. At the same time, the communication of customer enquiries between Kuoni’s own travel agencies and Market Management was simplified as part of a project. Service providers at the destinations now talk directly to customer advisors in the travel agencies. This has reduced costs significantly within Market Management.

Turning to the product area, a flexible pricing system has been introduced for the city breaks offered by Helvetic Tours and Kuoni. Hotels are now connected directly to the Kuoni booking system and can update their offers at any time, so prices are automatically adjusted in line with changing exchange rates.
Thanks to the acquisition of Reisen TCS’s activities at the end of 2009, a new product line, accompanied tours, was introduced during the year. New holiday regions have also been opened up for the current year, with direct flights now available to Saïdia (Northern Morocco), Dalaman (Turkey) and Rostock (Germany).

Sustainable travel was a popular option in 2010, and the ananea product line has launched an extensive volunteering programme for 2011. This allows customers to actively and sustainably support environmental and social projects during their holidays. In 2010 Kuoni Switzerland became the first tour operator to offer “fair trade” holidays to South Africa, which it did in cooperation with various organi-sations and Private Safaris South Africa.

Favourite short-haul destinations for the Swiss in 2010 included the Balearic and Canary Islands, Egypt, Turkey and Cyprus. The most popular long-haul destinations for Swiss travellers were the Maldives, Kenya, the USA and Canada. Direct flights from Switzerland to Mauritius and Arusha (Tanzania) were offered for the first time and proved popular.

Kuoni retail: from product-focused structure to service-oriented sales organisation

Numerous initiatives in the “Patrouille Suisse” internal transformation project, launched in mid– 2009, went live during 2010. Kuoni Switzerland increased investment in its sales channels and in the quality of advice and service, for example. The project will continue in 2011 with the aim of transfering the unit from a product-oriented organisation to a customerfocused, service-based sales structure. One of the project’s main aims is to reinforce the retail organisation as a proactive, knowledge- and relationship-based operation. In 2010, all employees in the approximately 100 travel agencies took on new roles as travel experts, personal customer advisors or travel consultants.

Travel experts are a key component of the “Expert Exchange” database developed especially for Kuoni. Travel consultants can access all of the company’s destination expertise from the database, and when advising customers they can get help from the travel experts, wherever they are, via live-chat, mail or telephone.