Touristik Union International GmbH. and Company K.G.
Touristik Union International GmbH. and Company K.G.
Karl Wiechert Alice 23
3000 Hannover 61
Federal Republic of Germany
Sales: DM3.25 billion (US$1.83 billion)
Touristik Union International (TUI) is not only West Germany’s foremost tourist travel company, but also one of the largest leisure travel groups in Europe. The company is actually a holding company for eight tour-operating agencies. Each has a distinctive character and history and a specific segment of the travel and tourism market.
TUI was founded in 1968 by four tourist travel companies. Touropa, Scharnow, Hummel, and Dr. Tigges-Fahrten were all highly successful, reputable tour operators that sought to broaden their scope and potential by pooling resources and organizing into a single entity.
At the time of TUI’s founding, Dr. Tigges-Fahrten had been in business 45 years. When Dr. Hubert Tigges and his wife Maria first began organizing educational tours in 1928, conditions for starting a new business were far from ideal. The Tigges’ tours began modestly, guiding groups of students through Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium from their base in the Ruhr Valley.
The optimism of the 28-year-old professor and his wife turned out to be well founded as their guided tours, offering in-depth historical and cultural information, began to attract a wider audience. In the first year they led five spring and summer tours and two winter ones. From April through August, and during the week between Christmas and the New Year, they conducted tours by train or bus. By 1932 they had added sites in France, Italy, and Switzerland. By 1933 England, Scandinavia, North Africa, and Spain were included, and in 1934 they led their first trip to Majorca. In 1935 Maria’s brother, Alois Fischer, joined the company (he became a partner in 1948).
The travel business came to a standstill during World War II. But after the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, the first postwar Tigges travel brochure appeared, advertising a 14-day tour of Cologne and other German cities. The price included bed and board, as well as transportation, and the brochure assured participants of “abundant food and running water.”
Gradually, educational tours were resumed, and in 1950 new sites were added: Rome, Lourdes, and Fatima. The first airborne tour was conducted in 1953—a 16-day trip through Spain. The following year, the first chartered flights were made, to London, Barcelona, and the Canary Islands, and the first formal business agreements with hotels as part of the tour packages were arranged. The 1950s included many other first-time events for the company: the first cruise (to Greece and Istanbul), tours to the Middle East and India, and the first round trip to Iceland and Ireland.
By 1961, Reinhold Tigges and Jürgen Fischer, the sons of the founders, had joined the company and helped widen the scope and market for the tours. Two years later, the first world tour was conducted. A few years later a tour group scheduled to visit China was canceled because of the Cultural Revolution.
As Dr. Tigges-Fahrten grew, a rival travel business was formed. Touropa was the result of a 1948 merger of four travel agencies whose businesses had also come to a halt during the war years: Reisebüro Dr. Degener, headed by Dr. Carl Degener; Deutsches Reisebüro DER, headed by Emil Kipfmuller; and Amtliches Bayerisches Reisebüro, headed by Karl Fuss. Carl Degener was placed in charge of the new company.
The first Touropa train excursion went from Hamburg to Ruhpoldig at Christmas, 1948 with 1,200 travelers aboard. The holiday celebrants of 1948 pronounced the ride a resounding success, and many more tours were scheduled, venturing further within Germany. In 1951, the tours became international. A color film advertised the delights of travel via the special Touropa train, and by the end of 1952 the year’s participants totaled 194,000.
In 1953, Touropa began offering tours by air—the first, on Air France, was to Algeria. Travelers to Majorca in 1954 went by a combination of railway, bus, and ship. The first Touropa cruise was launched the following year: a trip to Spain, North Africa, and Corsica. A cruise in 1957 was the first postwar one to use a German ship, and in 1964 Touropa sent its first chartered flight to Kenya.
Of the eight TUI companies, Touropa is one of the three high-volume agencies, attracting close to 600,000 tourists in a year. In contrast to the more scholarly intent of Dr. Tigges’ tours, Touropa emphasizes carefree vacation jaunts. Today Touropa specializes in lengthy vacations. Many of these tours incorporate a stay at one of the Robinson Clubs, vacation villages inaugurated in 1971. Robinson Clubs (originally the Robinson Hotels) have a variety of athletic facilities and also offer team sports.
The other two companies that formed the original TUI group, Scharnow and Hummel, both started in 1953. Hummel, the smaller of the two, got its start on March 1 that year with the merger of Reisebüro Luhrs, the Original Wassertragers Hummel, and Hummel-Hummel. Letterheads and brochures displayed the name of the new firm, Hummel-Reise, along with combined trademarks of the original companies. The success of Hummel-Reise’s first tour, a train trip to the Black Forest, created a demand for additional package tours of picturesque areas in Europe, from the North Sea to the southern Tyrolean mountains. The trips were relatively short—up to 14 days—and by the end of the first year, had attracted 1,500 travelers. These package vacations, many incorporating guided tours of European towns and cities, became Hummers specialty. Today, those tours attract close to 200,000 vacationers a year.
Scharnow was the largest of the four founding companies and is third-largest in the current TUI group, with over 570,000 clients. Its origins can be traced to a meeting in Hanover on July 2, 1953; four well-established travel groups sent representatives to discuss a merger. Reiseburo Bangemann of Hanover, Essener Reiseburo of Essen, Ferienreise GmbH, of Bielefeld, and Reiseburo Scharnow of Bremen came to an agreement that resulted in the founding of Scharnow-Reisen GmbH. K.G. in November. Wilhelm Scharnow was chosen to head the new company.
Early in 1954 the Scharnow organization took what it termed “a plunge into cold water” with the publication of its first catalog—actually an eight-page brochure—advertising its first tours to the North Sea and Baltic Sea areas. That summer it issued a 24-page catalog showing beautiful vacation spots on other tours in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. One of the seaside towns pictured even made Willy Scharnow an honorary citizen for the influx of tourists the catalog attracted. Altogether, in Scharnow’s first full year of operation, 112,000 travelers chose its tours.
The histories of the founding companies intertwined as early as 1956, when Touropa, Hummel, and Scharnow conducted a tour together by air to Majorca and Italy. Another 15-day tour itinerary was added, to Denmark, Sweden, and Holland. Then they organized a 35-day tour of southwest Africa. The three-way collaboration on air tours—called Deutsche Flugtouristik —expanded its program to include both nearby and distant sites throughout the continent. In 1962, they began offering chartered flights, which were also popular.
After collaborating on numerous such successful travel projects, Scharnow, Hummel, Touropa, and Dr. Tigges-Fahrten joined forces on December 1, 1968 to form TUI. Willy Scharnow was chosen to head the first supervisory board, and Herbert Degener, Hans-Albrecht Seiffert and Dr. Walter Vogel served on its first board of directors.
Together these leaders mapped out a strategy for marketing the services of the four companies. Each had a well-developed area of specialization, which would be preserved. Dr. Tigges-Fahrten’s study tours had a relatively small but stable following. Hummel had built a reputation for an immense variety of vacations in beautiful areas: forest, mountainous, and seaside sites. Also, Hummel was known for its shorter vacations and city tours. Lengthy trips, in some cases with stopovers at spas and fitness clubs, were Touropa’s specialty; its tours always involved top-quality facilities in superior vacation areas. To complement but not infringe on these specialties, Scharnow narrowed its focus, becoming a specialist in vacations offering private bungalows or apartments in choice areas. Scharnow began its vacation-home program in 1960, with residential facilities in Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Denmark. By the end of a year, it had filled 100 such places; in four years it had filled 3,000.
With the market segments of each company clearly defined, the business grew rapidly. Twen-Tours International, launched originally by Hummel-Reise, became an independent company and joined TUI in 1970. Twen-Tours addressed still another market segment: travelers under 30. Package tours to many countries feature trekking, backpacking, and hiking, with language courses along the way.
In 1972 TUI acquired TransEuropa, today the largest of the TUI brands. Founded in Munich by Dieter von Langen in 1955, Trans-Europa got off to a fast start by conducting very successful air tours at a low cost to travelers. Emphasizing quality and economy has attracted a large number of travelers, making even lower-priced and higher-quality packages. In 1967, for example, TransEuropa tourists were traveling on Condor airplanes. From 218,000 clients in 1971, the company grew to attract more than 650,000 in the late 1980s. TransEuropa now features many long-distance destinations, as well as Mediterranean and Black Sea tours that are popular with families and groups.
Airtours International GmbH, and Company K.G. was founded in 1967 in Frankfurt, uniting several German travel companies that specialized in air travel. The company became part of TUI three years later, with a distinct emphasis on air travel. Airtours specializes in vacations using scheduled airlines, and continues to serve over 200,000 clients yearly.
Hit is TUI’s latest acquisition. Hit caters to travelers who like to design their own tours or vacation itineraries. Clients choose the parts of package tours that they prefer, and Hit combines them for efficient travel to the desired destinations. In 1989, TUI also acquired a 40% interest in ARKE, Holland’s leading tour operator, and a controlling interest in Robinson Club.
Although TUI is composed of very diverse travel companies, the strategy of assigning each a separate segment of the travel market has worked well. The company’s business has increased steadily; TUI today operates close to 3,000 agencies in West Germany alone and about 150 in other countries.
Although each of the component companies has appeals for its own market segment, the executive board and supervisory board provide central control to maintain a unity of purpose. The TUI formula for attracting all parts of the travel market through specialized services has so far been a highly successful strategy.
Seetours International GmbH & Co. KG (75%); Dr. Degener Reisen GmbH (Austria); Ultramar Express S.A. (Spain) (77%); Airtour Greece Ltd. (90%); Tollman’s Tours and Safaris Ltd. Mombasa (Kenya) (51%); Tantur Ltd. (Turkey) (50%); Promotel International S.A. (Luxembourg); Promotora S.A. (Iberotel), Palma de Mallorca (60%); Robinson Club GmbH; Gecotel S.A. Rethymnon/Kreta (50%); TUI-Software GmbH; Touristik Marketing GmbH; Touristik Finanz AG (Switzerland) (50%).