Affluent travellers pulling the reins on holiday budgets has led Kuoni to slide into the red for the first six months of 2009.
The luxury tour operator has swung from profits of SFr36.5m in the first half of 2008 to losses of SFr51m in the same period in 2009, with revenues down 21% to SFr1.76bn. The UK market was particularly hard hit with bookings down 23%.
Kuoni chairman Peter Rothwell said: “The global financial and economic crisis will continue to have a negative impact on the 2009 business year. Despite the adverse external influences, I am confident the Kuoni Group will post a positive ¬operating result for 2009 as whole.”
He added that the effects of swine flu had exacerbated the slump caused by the global downturn.
The group also attributed the decline in profits to an extraordinary investment and cost-reduction programme. The three-year SFr106m programme began in January with SFr8m spent on standardising booking systems group-wide.
However, restructuring actions initiated in all the Group’s divisions in the first half-year helped reduce the overall group payroll, with the staff headcount cut 559 (full-time-equivalent employees).
The group said booking trends for the second half of 2009 suggested a slight improvement in general consumer demand and that a recent acquisition in China would aid growth.
“The Kuoni Group acquired a 32 per cent equity holding in Et-China at the beginning of June 2009, making Kuoni the biggest single shareholder,” it said. “In the long-term, this acquisition will substantially add to the Group’s growth. The expansion of its activities in China is one of the most significant milestones to date in the more than 100 years of Kuoni’s corporate history.”