The times when the Eastern European members of the EU were treading water economically are over. The economies of many Eastern European countries have been growing significantly faster than their Western European counterparts year after year. Standards of living have been rising as part of this race to catch up. People could afford more things. Things like trips. Discovering new attractions in their own country and exploring the world – it is suddenly all possible, and is only interrupted by the outbreak of the Corona virus. In October 2019, DER Touristik Group intensified its activities in Romania. Exim, a subsidiary of the travel and tourism division of REWE Group, acquired the Bucharest-based company Travel Brands in October 2019. The acquisition involved a travel-agency network of 80 branch offices, a tour operator and a business travel unit with a destination agency on the Black Sea. “As a European travel group that does business in 16 countries, we want to actively help shape the transformation that the Romanian market is undergoing,” says Sören Hartmann, the CEO of DER Touristik Group. “We found the perfect partner in Travel Brands.”
People in Romania have little travel experience. Because of their tight budgets, many of them were unable to take holiday trips to far-off destinations for a long time. People who could actually afford to go on a holiday trip usually preferred to stay in Romania and visit places like the beaches of the Black Sea, densely-wooded Transylvania or the pristine Danube Delta. Or they took a tour of Bucharest, the nation’s capital where many areas now exude the glamour once reserved for megacities of the West. When Romanians did decide to venture beyond the country’s international border, they took well-organised package tours. Their favourite destinations: Turkey, Greece and Egypt.
“Just around 25 per cent of Romanians take trips,” says Cosmin Marinof, the CEO of Travel Brands. All of those Romanians who are just now beginning to weigh the possibility of travelling to international destinations and foreign countries want intensive personal assistance – preferably in a travel agency. Booking a holiday trip online? Most Romanians would rather not. The best they like to do with a mouse click is to occasionally book a hotel room or a short trip to a city. Travel Brands is set up to address these needs. The company has 80 branches that were quickly rebranded as Dertour travel agencies. These agencies form the most concentrated network in Romania, making the company the market leader. Additional sales locations in such places as shopping centres will be added in years to come. The company’s employees spend an extensive amount of time assisting their customers. They ask about travel interests, offer good deals, outline alternatives, pique customers’ curiosity and dispel possible doubts. Their message: “Your holiday is in good hands at Dertour. The brand is part of a major international group from Germany.” This creates trust.
Ferid Nasr, CEO Exim Holding“As an established player and a member of a strong business group, Dertour meets the customers’ needs and will meet the challenges posed by the pandemic in 2020.”
The subsidiary of DER Touristik Group is also considering plans to invest in online sales in future to complement its investment in stationary travel agencies. “We want to be ready when online sales become more important in Romania in years to come and want to be able to provide our service to customers around the clock,” Cosmin Marinof says. As the country’s standards of living rise, tourism will grow in much the same way that it has in other Eastern European countries. “We see one clear trend everywhere in this region: Our customers are taking many more trips than they did just a few years ago,” says Ferid Nasr, who oversees the activities of DER Touristik Group in Eastern Europe and is the CEO of Exim Holding, a Prague-based company that is part of the group. What’s more, holiday guests have become more demanding. They want to visit new destinations, have a larger selection of hotels in all categories and enjoy more service. A trend that has been interrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19. “As an established player and a member of a strong business group, Dertour meets the customers’ needs and will meet the challenges posed by the pandemic in 2020,” Nasr says.
Dertour: a reliable partner
Many Romanians are already familiar with the Dertour brand thanks to Dertour Austria’s activities as a tour operator in their country. Dertour is now doing business in Romania for the first time as a tour operator and sales brand. Immediately following the launch, Dertour began introducing itself to the Romanian travel market by appearing at trade fairs and conducting a major ad campaign. “We will also perform other marketing activities in future to reinforce this image in people’s minds,” Cosmin Marinof says. “My team stands completely behind the brand introduction. I want to make sure that we apply this concept together. A brand is created and established by the people behind it. It does not just happen overnight.”
Mono-brand concepts are fairly commonplace in Eastern Europe. For instance, customers in the Czech Republic also know “Exim Tours” as a tour operator and sales brand. “We concentrate on simplicity and transparency in each market,” Ferid Nasr says. “This approach has paid off. Customers appreciate it when the tour operator that organises their holiday and the travel agency or website that they used to book the trip have the same brand name. And if problems arise, they know one thing: I will be communicating with a single contact partner.” This provides less experienced travellers with a sense of security.
In years to come, Dertour will become a reliable partner for its customers – someone who provides everything from assistance and bookings to support at the holiday site. And it will do so both in countries along the Mediterranean that Romanians are already visiting and as part of tours in far-away countries. “Under the umbrella of DER Touristik Group, we already have access to a product portfolio that is about 60 per cent larger than before, and we will develop new opportunities along with Exim,” Cosmin Marinof says.