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Interview with Kuoni Group

If you want your tourism product to be taken seriously, and considered for inclusion by one of the world’s largest B2B wholesalers and online providers of hotel accommodation and land services, you’d better take Responsible Tourism seriously, writes Des Langkilde.

During the 11th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations (RTD11) event held in Cape Town prior to, and during WTM-Africa, I met with Matthias Leisinger, Vice President or Corporate Responsibility at Kuoni Travel Holdings Ltd, and asked him some pertinent questions relating to Africa inbound services.

But before I go into the interview, here’s some background information on the Kuoni Group:

Kuoni Group is a global service provider to the travel industry, founded in 1906 in Zurich, Switzerland. Today Kuoni Group has operations in more than 100 countries on five continents, and will employ around 8 000 people (FTE) in its future organisation. Kuoni Group focuses on three core activities:

• Global B2B wholesaler and online provider of hotel accommodation and land services.

• Destination services from accommodation, transportation, tours and activities, to venues and event management.

• Industry pioneer and world’s leading visa services provider. Works for 45 governments and operates 1 486 Application Centres in 120 countries.

• Kuoni Group’s turnover for the 2014 financial year came to 5 508 million CHF (Swiss Francs – about US$5.76m or ZAR69,17m).

• In 2014 13.6 million hotel room nights were booked through Kuoni in GTD division – an increase of 7.1% against the previous year. Around 38’000 room nights were booked per day online.

• In Global Travel Services (GTS) division around 50’000 group tours were organized with 3.1 million booked room nights. In addition Kuoni Group’s global network of nine Destination Management Specialists served 738’000 customers with destination services in 2014.

• Visa services provider VFS Global processed 18.2 million visa applications worldwide and almost 6 million biometric data sets were recorded for its government clients in 2014.

• Kuoni ranks among the top five tour operators in Europe.

• Following the decision to focus the company’s activities on its core business as a service provider to the global travel industry and to governments, the Board of Directors and the Group Executive Board decided in January to divest its tour operating activities. Kuoni Group intends to find new owners for its tour operating activities during the course of 2015.

Enough already! If you want more info on Kuoni Group, browse their website at www.kuoni.com. Back to the interview, I (TT) asked Matthias Leisinger (ML):

TT: How does Kuoni work with Africa inbound products?

ML: Private Safaris is a subsidiary of Kuoni, with offices in Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania (Arusha and Zanzibar) and South Africa, who are responsible for product sourcing and development in Africa, and will be exhibiting at Indaba 2015 in Durban.” (May 9-11, on stand ICCE12 – to book an appointment go to www.privatesafaris.com/indaba-2015-meeting-calendar/).

TT: Any niche products in demand?

ML: “There is increasing demand for fair trade travel products. However, the source markets are often not aware of the responsible tourism products or projects that are available in Africa, as many are not at the right level of maturity to meet Kuoni’s requirements in terms of service standards.”

TT: And what are the fair trade travel requirements?

ML: “All components of the package (tour operator, transport, activities and accommodation) as well as all contractual relationships in the value chain have to be audited against Fair Trade standards by an independent auditing company. The auditing company is Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) in Africa, and the standards are designed to ensure that workers and affected communities benefit from tourism through long-term trading relationships, full prepayment and binding cancellation agreements. In addition, a fair trade premium (5% of the package cost) is channelled into a central fund and used for development projects in Africa.”

So there you have it! If you want your tourism product to be taken seriously adopt Responsible Tourism Practices, and get Fair Trade Tourism certified.

About Matthias Leisinger: Matthias is a specialist in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable tourism with 13 years of experience in the private sector. His professional goal is driving change to create a more sustainable business model. He has a record of success in creating and implementing corporate sustainability strategy and initiatives including human rights due diligence, supply chain management, stakeholder management and reporting. He speakes at various events and conferences, and is experienced in planning, developing and implementing responsible tourism projects in various countries.

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