Corona crisis causes bleakest ever financial year
The fallout of the corona pandemic had a massive impact on the Hotelplan Group operating result. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the travel industry has been stripped of almost its entire commercial basis. The plunge in comparable turnover by 57.7% to CHF 808.9 million resulted in the worst financial performance in the Swiss travel group's history. Hotelplan Group refunded its customers and has honoured all corona-related reimbursements.
After a promising start to the 2019/2020 financial year (1 November 2019 to 31 October 2020) throughout Hotelplan Group, the corona crisis stopped the travel industry in its tracks in March 2020. Tens of thousands of customers had to be repatriated, travel cancelled and flights rebooked. Travel remained severely restricted for several months, depriving all Hotelplan Group business units, like the travel industry as a whole, of almost their entire commercial basis. In these challenging times, the Federation of Migros Cooperatives injected sufficient liquidity to ensure that customers could be refunded as quickly as possible. With a dramatic plunge in invoiced turnover to CHF 808.9 million (prior year: CHF 1,396.5 million) the travel group reported its worst-ever financial result.
Business units at a glance
Hit particularly hard by the corona crisis, Hotelplan Suisse was forced to cut jobs and close branches in the year under review. The portfolio was expanded in order to meet customer demand for holidays in Switzerland and the neighbouring countries, which led to a steep rise in the number of bookings for destinations in Switzerland in particular. However, this was not nearly enough to absorb the loss in revenues, resulting in invoiced turnover of CHF 211.9 million (prior year: CHF 572.9 million).
At Hotelplan UK, the year under review was dominated not just by the corona crisis but also by the ongoing issues surrounding Brexit. The chalet offering in European ski resorts was scaled back to secure long-term profitability. Invoiced turnover at Hotelplan UK dropped to GBP 114.5 million (prior year: GBP 235.1 million).
After a successful start to the winter season at the holiday home provider Interhome Group, the start of the summer season was severely affected by the corona pandemic. Easing travel restrictions during the summer months triggered rising demand, notably for bookings in the customers' respective home countries. Summer business was thus partially able to absorb the corona-related losses. Invoiced turnover amounted to CHF 236.7 million (prior year: CHF 341.5 million).
The business travel specialists bta first travel and Finass Reisen were able to deliver their high standards of customer service despite the challenging circumstances. This was reflected in the fact that several substantial orders which could not go ahead on account of the pandemic were rebooked for 2021. bta first travel ended the year under review with invoiced turnover of CHF 45.5 million (prior year: CHF 127.3 million). Invoiced turnover at Finass Reisen amounted to CHF 16.8 million (prior year: CHF 43.5 million).
vtours' first financial year under the Hotelplan Group umbrella got off to a promising start. However, vtours too was forced to cancel almost all pending bookings from March onwards and the corona crisis brought new booking activity to a virtual standstill. The online tour operator reported invoiced turnover of EUR 138.7 million (prior year: EUR 461.8 million, not consolidated in Hotelplan Group).
For bedfinder too, 2020 proved to be an extremely challenging year. The travel services provider nevertheless was able to further strengthen existing partnerships and secure two new high-profile partners for the B2B tour operating business. bedfinder ended the year under review with invoiced turnover of CHF 9.1 million (prior year: CHF 13.2 million).
Investing in the future
Despite the corona pandemic, Hotelplan Group invested in the future and continued to pursue numerous projects. With the specialist brand Travelhouse, Hotelplan Suisse introduced a new product line with theme-based travel in Europe, while the two business travel specialists bta first travel and Finass Reisen launched new tools to create added value for their customers. A new type of offer provides vtours customers with even more security and flexibility, and bedfinder added rail package tours to its portfolio. The group management approved a new group-wide, multi-year IT project, aimed at speeding up the harmonisation of the system and process environments in the different Hotelplan Group business units, thus laying the groundwork to exploit further synergies.
Pent-up thirst for travel in 2021
At this point, it is all but impossible to provide a forecast for the current business year (1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021). One of many decisive factors will be the success of the vaccination strategies and the general conditions for travel worldwide. But there is a thirst for travel, reflected not least in the booking figures at Interhome Group – the holiday home provider's bookings are currently only slightly down on the previous year. As soon as travelling abroad becomes more accessible again (in addition to domestic travel), the entire Hotelplan Group expects business to pick up and looks forward to fulfilling its customers' every possible travel wish in the coming months.