Kuoni Travel

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Industry Travel, Tourism
Founded 1906
Headquarters Zürich, Switzerland
Key people
Alfred Kuoni (founder)
Products Charter and scheduled passenger airlines, package holidays, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, tailor-made holidays
Services Travel agencies
Revenue CHF 5669 million (2013)[1]
CHF 154.2 million (2013)[1]
Profit CHF 69.2 million (2013)[1]
Number of employees
11,621 (2013)[1]
Website www.kuoni.com

Kuoni Travel is a tourism company. It was founded in 1906 by the entrepreneur Alfred Kuoni in Zurich, Switzerland where it is based.[1] In 2013, the Kuoni Group was named “World’s Leading Luxury Tour Operator” at the annual World Travel Awards.[1]


In 1906, Alfred Kuoni established a travel agency at Sonnenquai 6 [2] (known today as Bellevue Place) in Zurich, Switzerland, as an extension to the haulage company he owned with his brothers. In 1907, Kuoni Travel led its first guided overseas tour to Egypt.[2] Following the rapid success of his travel agency, Alfred relocated Kuoni Travel to Bahnhofplatz in 1912, and withdrew from the haulage company he owned with his brothers.[2] Throughout the early 1920s,[2] Kuoni expanded rapidly - opening branches in St Moritz (1923), Lucerne, Pontresina and Nice (1925), as well as internationally in France and Italy. In 1925, Alfred Kuoni also incorporates the company as Aktiengesellschaft Reisebureau A. Kuoni AG.[2] Harry Hugentobler becomes a partner[2] in the business, and a minority shareholder, owning 40% of the company's shares.

During the Second World War, in 1945, Alfred Kuoni dies,[2] and his shares in the company are inherited by his son, Alfred Kuoni II, who is appointed to the Board of Directors.[2] In 1951, Kuoni opens branches in Paris and Italy,[2] and uses its position as the first tour agency in Europe to offer all-inclusive tours to East Africa to customers throughout Europe.[2] In 1957, ownership of the company transfers to Kuoni and Hugentobler Foundation, an organisation set up solely to operate the company and which holds the majority of shares, and therefore, the majority of votes.[2] Harry Hugentobler retires but remains chairman of the Foundation,[2] and Jack Bolli is appointed General Manager of the Foundation, and therefore, the company.[2]

The 1960s saw a further rapid focus on international travel markets for Kuoni[2] - in 1963, a Tokyo office was opened to cater for business from East Asian customers, and in 1965, the company acquires Challis & Benson, a London-based travel agency, before renaming it Kuoni UK Ltd. In 1972, the company floats on the Zurich Stock Exchange with Motor Columbus AG and Swissair becoming minority shareholders alongside the Kuoni and Hugentobler Foundation.[2] In 1976, Kuoni chartered the first around-the-world flight using a Swissair DC-8 aircraft[2] - the flight stopped over in Shanghai, and marked the first time that China had granted permission for a special flight to land within its borders.[2]

In 1978, Swissair takes a 50.5% holding in the company,[2] whilst the Foundation retains the majority of votes. Fourteen years later, in 1992, Swissair sells it's majority shareholding to Kaufhof AG, with the Foundation still retaining the majority of votes.[2] In 1982, Kuoni establishes a budget-conscious travel brand - Helvetic Tours.[2] In 1995, the company becomes majority shareholder in Edelweiss Air, an airline which Kuoni eventually gained sole ownership of until the company sold it in 2008 to Swiss International Air Lines in exchange for the right to sell accommodation to Kuoni customers via the Swiss network.[2] In 1996, Kuoni takes over SOTC Holiday Tours Private, a tour operator in Mumbai, and eventually renames it Kuoni India.[2] By this stage, the company has offices in Tokyo, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Germany, India and Japan.[2] In 1997, the company establishes a joint venture - P&O Travel - with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, opening offices in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.[2]

In 2000, Kuoni acquired 49% of Stockholm-based travel agency Apollo Resor AB, becoming the third-largest travel organisation in Sweden overnight. Apollo is active in Norway, Sweden and Finland, and sells the vast majority of its products over the internet.[2] To further bolster its position in India, Kuoni acquires Sita Travel and becomes the market-leader in tailor-made travel agency services. Sita's customers were a mixture of business and personal customers, and their acquisition was important due to their extensive knowledge of visa processing services in the Indian market.[2] Adding to this focus on incoming services, Kuoni acquires T-PRO, a New York-based provider of visa processing services for the United States.[2] Finally, in 2000, Edelweiss Air acquired an Airbus A330 and began long-haul flights.[2] Following the 2001 takeover of Novair, a Scandinavian charter airline, and the remaining shares of Apollo Resor AB, Kuoni merges their Scandinavian operations into one group - Kuoni Scandinavia AB.[2] In 2002, it followed a similar pattern by acquiring Allied Tours LLC, thus becoming the largest incoming services operator in the United States.[2]

From 2004 onwards, Kuoni began to adopt an 'asset-light' business strategy, in which it offloaded its assets in a variety of companies related to, but not directly relevant to, their core business.[2] The first of the assets to be departed with was a 49% share it held in TUI Suisse, which it sold to TUI Hannover. Kuoni's stake in Caribbean hotels was sold to the Rex Resort Hotel Group.[2] In 2005, it acquired Royal Hansa Tours and Avontuur.nu, both Dutch travel agencies, as well as Reisetorget, a Norwegian travel specialist.[2] It offloaded Intrav, Inc. to First Choice.[2] 2006 marked Kuoni's one hundredth birthday. It was in this same year that the company acquired Playitas holiday resort in Fuerteventura, Spain, as well as British travel specialists Kirker Holidays and Journeys of Distinction, the Swiss company Kontigi-Saga, and destination management companies Asian Trails (covering the south-east Asia markets) and Distant Frontiers (covering India). Henning Boysen also became Chairman of the Board of Directors during 2006.[2]

Kuoni began a transformation process in 2007, beginning with a new corporate structure and the re-branding of its numerous interconnected, but still rather separated, global assets.[2] The company acquired a British firm of travel specialists, CV Travel, as well as Dorado Latin Tours, a Swiss company offering tours to the Latin-America region, and Les Ateliers du Voyage of France.[2] It entered the Russian market in 2007 with the acquisition of UTE Megapolus.[2] In 2008, continuing in the vein of both its corporate restructuring and it's asset-light business model, it sold Edelweiss Air, and entered a strategic partnership with Swiss International Air Lines.[2] It also exited the Austrian market by selling its local offices to branch management, but acquired more destination management companies - Desert Adventures Tourism (covering Dubai and Oman) as well as Australian Tours Management.[2] Carrier, a British-based luxury firm of travel specialists, was also acquired in 2008.[2]

In 2009, the company began to further reduce its operating costs as part of its corporate restructuring, which included the creation of a centralised Procurement and Production Unit overseeing its European tour-operating activities.[2] It expanded further into the European market in 2010 with the acquisition of Best Tours, which covered both the Italian and Belgian markets.[2] 2011 marked the acquisition of Gullivers Travel Associates (GTA), whose relationships with local accommodation providers[3] is now used extensively by Kuoni as a ground agent. GTA was acquired for CHF257m, as a rights offering.[2] A simplified group structure - comprising three central divisions - was announced, and Kuoni's destination management teams were awarded World Travel's "Best Destination Management Company" for the second consecutive year.[2]

Following the completion of the cost-saving exercises and restructuring as part of the asset-light strategy and rebranding of its core business model, Kuoni posted CHF5.1bn of turnover, and profits increased by 27% to CHF74.2m.[2] Various loss-making tour operators in Europe no longer held the same significance that they once did under the previous Kuoni business structure, and therefore operations in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Russia are sold off, as well as the online business-to-consumer accommodation service, Octopus.[2] In Spain and the Netherlands, Kuoni's operations were acquired by local management, whereas UTE Megapolus was sold to Russian Express, a Russian tour operator. Octopus, and Kuoni's Belgian operations, were closed as no sustainable buyer was found for them.[2]

Kuoni's B2B service, Kuoni Global Travel Services, announced a new structure within the Kuoni group. It would be split to focus on fully independent travellers (FIT(s)), and group travel.[2] In 2013, the acquisition of Kuoni's Italian operations were acquired by RS Holding, and the company announces its intention to allow a management buy-out of its French operations, thus completing the streamlining of Kuoni's brand in international markets, especially where operators were being stood up at a loss.[2] A further streamlining of the corporate structure was announced - the company was split into Global Travel Services, Outbound and Specialists, and VFS Services.[2] By late 2013, the company had restructured itself to become a travel-related service provider – providing a full spectrum of services from reservations through to visa processing, for both consumers and business customers alike.[2] A CHF5.669bn turnover was posted, and profits jumped by nearly 198.3% to CHF154.2 million.[2]


The company specialises in luxury and tailor-made travel to both the business and consumer markets, as well as related services such as visa processing, to destinations around the world across nine different geographic regions.[4]

Corporate structure[edit]

Following a corporate restructuring in the late 2000s,[2] Kuoni now consists of three central divisions:

  • Global Travel Services, which deals with Kuoni's B2B offerings, and is headed by Rolf Schafroth.
  • Outbound and Specialists, headed by Stefan Leser, and focused on dealing with tour operations and destination management.
  • VFS Services, which deals with visa processing and other inbound legislative enquiries. This division is headed by Zubin Karkaria.

Kuoni UK[edit]

The UK organisation is headquartered at Kuoni House in Dorking, Surrey, England. Kuoni Travel Ltd has been in the long-haul tour operating business since 1966, following the acquisition of Challis & Benson Ltd. The Kuoni UK family also includes:

  • Kuoni World Class
  • Challenge for Charity
  • The Travel Collection
  • Voyages Jules Verne
  • Journeys of Distinction
  • CV Travel
  • Kirker Holidays
  • Carrier

Despite owning a number of direct-sell travel companies, Kuoni maintains good relations with retail travel agents in Britain and Ireland, and has set up the Kuoni Long Haul Travel College where students can learn more about the markets it serves. It also offers educational trips to the travel agency network.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Kuoni Group Report". Kuoni.com. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb "Milestones in 108 Years of History". Kuoni.com. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Local Accommodation Providers". Allison Travels. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  4. ^ "Destinations". Kuoni.co.uk. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 

External links[edit]