Another gloomy result despite strong summer business
The coronavirus pandemic again had a massive impact on the Hotelplan Group financial results. The virtually non-existent winter business meant that invoiced turnover at the Swiss travel concern fell by 15.3% to CHF 684.8 million compared to the previous year – despite some business units reporting a surge in bookings during the summer months.
The 2020/2021 financial year (1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021) at Hotelplan Group was once again dominated by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Although bookings in the summer months were consistently above 2020 levels and the business units Hotelplan Suisse, vtours and Interhome Group recorded even more bookings over a period of weeks than in pandemic-free 2019, it proved impossible to recoup the shortfall incurred during the winter months (November 2020 to April 2021). The travel group reported invoiced turnover of CHF 684.8 million (prior year: CHF 808.9 million).
Business units at a glance
Opportunities for global travel remained severely restricted until around mid-April 2021, with correspondingly low levels of customer travel activity at the Swiss tour operator Hotelplan Suisse. A veritable booking boom set in from mid-May 2021 onwards. However, this was not enough to absorb the loss in revenue during the winter months, resulting in invoiced turnover of CHF 186.4 million (prior year: CHF 211.9 million).
The high volatility surrounding border entry rules also left its mark on vtours. Thanks to its dynamic business model, the online tour operator was able to adapt its product range very quickly to the spike in demand from May 2021 onwards. vtours reported invoiced turnover of EUR 170.1 million (prior year: EUR 138.7 million).
Since travelling abroad from Great Britain was almost impossible throughout the entire year, Hotelplan UK – as in the previous year – had to cancel the bulk of its bookings. More than 100,000 customers were affected by the cancellations. Invoiced turnover at Hotelplan UK dropped to GBP 6.4 million (prior year: GBP 114.5 million).
The appeal of and demand for holidays in a holiday apartment or home remained strong in the 2020/2021 financial year. This effect was also felt at Interhome Group. The holiday home rental provider ended the year under review with invoiced turnover of CHF 275.0 million (prior year: CHF 236.7 million), a substantial improvement on the first year of the pandemic. In the Swiss domestic market, Interhome Group can even look back on the most successful year in the company's 56-year history.
The Swiss business travel market remained exposed to significant turbulence in the year under review, albeit at low overall levels. Despite the numerous challenges, both business travel specialists bta first travel and Finass Reisen succeeded in winning new domestic and international customers and convinced with excellent service. Invoiced turnover at bta first travel amounted to CHF 17.3 million (prior year: CHF 45.5 million) and at Finass Reisen to CHF 9.1 million (prior year: CHF 16.8 million) at the end of the 2020/2021 financial year.
In order to most effectively exploit synergies in terms of product procurement, technology and fulfilment, the white label tour operating activities previously handled by bedfinder have been consolidated at vtours as of the 2021/2022 financial year. bedfinder ended its last financial year 2020/2021 with invoiced turnover of CHF 4.3 million (prior year: CHF 9.1 million).
Future focus on sustainability and customer experience
Hotelplan Group also used the 2020/2021 financial year to realign its strategy to reflect the changing market conditions and equip itself for the period following the coronavirus pandemic. A group-wide strategy process was launched for this purpose, which ultimately culminated in the two core themes of sustainability and customer experience. "With our new group strategy, we aspire to deliver an outstanding customer experience and strengthen our commitment to sustainability. This will remain our focus in the current business year as we continue to work towards reaching our targets," Hotelplan Group CEO Laura Meyer explains. With regard to sustainability, for instance, Hotelplan Group has already committed to climate-neutrality from 2022 onwards by offsetting any unmitigated, direct greenhouse gas emissions. The product portfolio of sustainable travel offers will also be expanded in the coming months. "In the area of customer experience, we are aiming for an optimum integration of online and offline touchpoints with our customers across the entire customer journey – from the initial contact through the booking process and stay at the destination to the return home. We are also providing more and more self-service options on our websites, which give our customers quick and easy access to information on their next trip and allow them to book other services, such as location-specific activities," says Laura Meyer.
"Catch-up" demand for travel in 2022
Starting on 1 November 2021, the current financial year got off to a very brisk start across the entire Hotelplan Group. However, the new Omicron virus strain and the associated testing requirements to enter different countries as well as to re-enter Switzerland resulted in a decline in booking volume which has yet to recover. New bookings are nevertheless significantly higher than in the previous-year period. "Looking ahead, we are very optimistic and anticipate strong customer demand to catch up on missed travel opportunities, with a solid spring and summer season," says Laura Meyer. The wider Mediterranean region and the USA are expected to be the most popular travel destinations in the coming months.