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The Second Round – The other shoe drops as travel giants merge – Two of the biggest players in the world sailing market had just conjoined to produce a mammoth organization where economies of scale and marketing muscle could combine to rule the waves.  That the merger hasn't been smooth sailing is no secret but, as the construction at Wickam's Cay II indicates, there is a plan in place and it is being executed with vigor.

What garnered much less attention was the announcement in June 2007, that First Choice itself had merged with Germany's TUI AG, one of Europe's largest travel businesses, to form TUI Travel PLC.  This last entity, a 51:49 merger (with First Choice as junior partner), has created a behemoth in the travel market.  With over 200 brands worldwide, covering everything from alpine walking tours to crewed yacht vacations to conference organizing, a fleet of 155 aircraft to whisk their customers around the globe and over 48,000 employees worldwide, TUI Travel is poised to wring every ounce of efficiency from the tourist/travel dollar.

The effect this will have on local operations is not yet clear but indications are that, as with much of the BVI these days, the emphasis will be on upscale, luxury travel experiences.  Indications are that growth will be found in the power yacht and crewed charter ends of the business, with larger boats and greater comfort being the order of the day.  Presumably this will translate into even more crowded anchorages and ever more service calls as the technical crews struggle to keep the boat systems running.

Whatever the local effect might be, TUI Travel PLC and its myriad brands are perfectly poised to mine their database and cross-sell travel experiences to their thousands of customers.  If you enjoyed hiking the Himalayas in July, how about lollygagging in Loblolly Bay in January?  While the promise is there, the big question for TUI is, can they deliver?

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