• TUI set for hotel property shuffle

TUI, the German travel giant that is one of the biggest hotel owners and operators in Europe, looks set to have its hotel property ownership shuffled following the completion of the merger with rival tour operator First Choice.

Much or all of the stock of 279 resort hotels is tipped to end up in the clutches of RIU, the privately held Spanish chain.

TUI’s hotels are not being injected into the First Choice merger and will join the company’s shipping operations in the rump left behind after completion of the deal which is scheduled for September 3.

The properties are mostly held in joint venture structures in which TUI has a direct or indirect majority interest. The biggest single chain is RIU with 109 hotels and 75,000 rooms.

This is almost as big as all the other TUI chains put together. These include Iberotel, Grupotel, Robinson and Grecotel.

While TUI holds a stake in RIU, via a joint venture struck in 1993, RIU’s chairwoman, Carmen Riu Guell, the third generation of the founding family, holds a 5.1% stake in TUI AG, the overall parent group.

Another shareholder likely to be at the table during any hotel sell-off is Abel Matutes, a former foreign minister of Spain and chairman of Fiesta Hotels, a nearly 40-strong chain. Matutes holds 2.4% of TUI AG.

According to TUI’s annual report its 279 hotels had a total of 165,000 rooms. This makes it the sixth biggest hotelier in Europe, according to rankings published by MKG Consulting (excluding Best Western, which is a consortium rather than a formal chain, TUI is the fifth biggest).

Of the hotels, 44% were directly owned by the respective hotel company, 11% were leased and 45% were operated in the framework of management or franchise agreements.

The focus for the enlarged combine of TUI Travel and Airtours is away from owning hotels with the rooms instead contracted both from TUI AG and other providers. The enlarged group will, however, continue to own aircraft and is a launch customer for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner.

The main accommodation business within the enlarged group – aside from booking its package customers bedspace – will be online destination services which will comprise brands such as laterooms.com and hotelopia.

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