JT Touristik

Lidl snaps up insolvent German tour operator

Pink is out. Founder Jasmin Taylor will leave JT Touristik.
Pink is out. Founder Jasmin Taylor will leave JT Touristik.

Discount supermarket group Lidl will take over insolvent tour operator JT Touristik to expand its travel retail activities.

The Berlin-based tour operator declared bankruptcy on September 29 but remained in business under Germany’s insolvency protection laws. Existing bookings were guaranteed until the end of 2017 under special arrangements with insurance companies while a buyer was sought.

Under the sale agreement, which was signed on Saturday and announced on Monday, Lidl will retain the ‘JT Touristik’ brand and all 60 employees.

The sale to Lidl requires regulatory clearance but is expected to be approved by the start of 2018. The transaction price was not disclosed but, according to fvw information, is understood to be a low single-digit million euro figure.

JT Touristik founder Jasmin Taylor, known for her flamboyant pink-coloured clothing and corporate branding, will leave the company as of January 1, 2018. There is speculation that she is planning to start a new tour operator specialising in luxury holidays.

Insolvency administrator Stephan Thiemann said: “We have achieved the ideal solution for JT Touristik. With Lidl E-Commerce International we have found a well-established buyer who will successfully continue the business of JT Touristik in the future.”

He emphasised that the transaction meant that customers with existing bookings for trips next year would be able to go ahead with their holidays as planned.

Christoph Hahn, head of travel at Lidl E-Commerce International, said: “With this acquisition we are strengthening our existing travel business. The know-how of JT ideally complements the competences that we have built up over the last 10 years.”

Through its website and flyers distributed in supermarkets, Lidl not only sells ‘white label’ holidays produced by other tour operators but also those of Lidl Holidays, an in-house tour operator business launched one year ago.

The acquisition of JT, including its complete staff, will give Lidl Holidays a medium-sized tour operator business with commercial partnerships with hotels, airlines and incoming agencies as well as sales channels.

Lidl also gains a sizeable customer base. JT Touristik had some 346,000 customers and turnover of €176 million in 2015/16, according to fvw’s annual German tour operators dossier. Figures for 2016/17 have not been released.

Lidl will start accepting new bookings for ‘the new JT’ from mid-January onwards. JT holidays will continue to be sold through travel agencies but will also be offered through Lidl-Reisen.de as well as its own retail outlets, which number 3,200 in Germany alone.

The supermarket group generated total turnover of €68.6 billion in 2016, including turnover of €20.4 billion at Lidl Germany.