Europe’s third-largest travel group FTI can look forward to a financially solid future and sees new opportunities once holiday sales resume fully, new majority owner Samih Sawiris and CEO Dietmar Gunz told fvw in a joint interview.
Egyptian tourism entrepreneur Sawiris will increase his stake in the Munich-based group to 75.1% from 33.7%. Dietmar Gunz, the company’s founder, former majority owner and CEO, and his wife Roula Jouny, who heads the group’s Meeting Point Hotels and DMCs unit, will be left with minority stakes.
In an exclusive interview with fvw, Sawiris and Gunz, who remains head of an unchanged management team, explained the background to the deal and how they see the future for the German group.
Sawiris, who has invested in FTI since 2014, commented: "It’s better for the company when a long-term focused private investor such as myself commits himself rather than bringing in financial investors who want to earn money quickly and then get out again." The tourism entrepreneur underlined that he does not plan to increase his influence at the company. "I fully trust the management team," he declared.
Similarly, FTI will not become part of his listed hotel group Orascom, which invests in properties, develops destinations and runs hotels. "Consolidation of the big FTI turnover would shift its balance," Sawiris said. In addition, it would further increase the hotel group’s complexity, he pointed out.
Asked how FTI is coping with the current crisis, Gunz stressed: "There is an unbelievable solidarity and loyalty to the company among the staff, I’m really proud about that."
He explained: "Like all tourism companies at present, we have to work in parallel. On the one hand, we have to reduce costs dramatically, for example through short-term working in Germany and scaling back incoming and hotel operations in the destinations.
"“On the other hand, there is a lot to do with customer care and agency support, and bookings are already coming in for the autumn and winter. In addition, we have to prepare for the time when things get going again, while planning and procurement for 2021 are already ongoing."
Sawiris added: “Many countries like Spain, France or Greece are economically very dependent on tourism. I’m convinced that there will be a lot of pressure to open the important holiday months of July and August for tourism again.”
In his home country of Egypt, Sawiris has proposed to the tourism minister that hotels should be allowed to open with a maximum 50% occupancy, which would enable them to operate profitably thanks to low costs.