Martin Ratchford, finance director for the hotel fund at Thomas Cook Group, will be a featured speaker at the Mediterranean Resort & Hotel Real Estate Forum, which will be held in Tarragona, Spain, Oct. 16-18.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Thomas Cook had acquired a 42-percent stake in Germany's travel company Aldiana from Swiss-based hotel property developer LMEY. The companies have agreed to fund at least another five owned and managed hotels for £150 million and will acquire even more development sites in the future. The company currently owns and operates eight clubs in Europe and Tunisia and will open four resorts by 2019.
At the same time, India’s Tata Capital announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to sell Tata Capital Forex Limited and TC Travel and Services Limited to Thomas Cook (India) Ltd. The companies will run under Tata Capital management until the deal closes, but Tata will consult with Thomas Cook on “specific matters.”
Ahead of MR&H, Ratchford talked about the top markets for both vacations and hotel investment in the Mediterranean.
1. Could you describe your position within Thomas Cook group and what your main objectives are?
My role is to raise, structure and manage third-party capital to acquire hotels for Thomas Cook to operate under one of its exclusive own brands. As part of this I am actively seeking hotel investment opportunities, and also further investment capital.
2. How do you think the travel market has changed in Europe and/or the Mediterranean in the last year? Which markets are most promising and which are less interesting now?
The classic destinations in Spain and Greece continue to be our strongest markets, but we are seeing interest in exploring new areas within them. Next year we will open two new hotels on Costa de la Luz for the first time and this year saw the opening of a new Halkikidi route for our airline which has prompted us to open two new hotels in that region of Greece.
Markets like Turkey and Egypt are once again seeing signs of growth.
3. What travel trends have you identified as the most influential, and how are they affecting your company’s products?
There is a long-term correlation showing travel demand is driven by airline capacity, and we are seeing that through our own airline with new routes opening up in new destinations that are meeting and driving demand.
We opened two new hotels in Croatia this year and have a Casa Cook planned to open near Brela in 2019 to meet the demand we are seeing.
4. What markets in the Mediterranean are most promising in terms of tourism and development?
We are excited by what Greece has to offer. There is progress in the banking and legal space that is allowing us to consider taking ownership positions, and an openness to tourism led development.
Greece has been the standout destination this summer. Bookings across the Group were [up] 24 percent and capacity is up 23 percent on last summer.
5. What Mediterranean resort(s) or hotel(s) have caught your attention recently as great examples of successful products?
I really like the Sani resort in Halkidiki in Greece. It is a great example of a high-quality, long-term, well-run resort that offers fantastic customer service.
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