The chairman and chief executive of Airtours David Crossland

With German tour operator TUI's purchase of Britain's second largest tour operator Thomson nearing its end-of-June completion date, the world's largest package holiday company and Britain's number one, Airtours appears finally set to respond with a much anticipated merger with German tour operator C&N Touristic. On the day the chairman of the Thomson Travel Group confirmed TUI's offer in Palma, the chairman of leading Majorcan hotel chain Sol Melia, Gabriel Escarrer, said that Airtours would respond and that the European travel market will eventually be dominated by “the big three.” It is the “big three” factor that Majorcan hoteliers are worried about and Britain's third largest tour operator First Choice has already unveiled rapid expansion plans in the European market with the purchase of Ten Tour group last week. The chairman of Preussag, Michael Frenzel, took the opportunity of a visit to Palma last week to try and ease the local hotel sector's fears that more mergers, buy-outs and bigger tour operators will diminish their bargaining power and market standing. Frenzel denied such claims saying that the Thomson TUI duo will be good for tourism, a sentiment echoed by the Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar. He said that the TUI Thomson combination will help decentralise tourism and take the pressure off the summer season - a comment for which he came under heavy fire from the hoteliers who are still sceptical about the take-over fever running high through the European tourist industry. Earlier this year the chairman and chief executive of Airtours David Crossland told the Bulletin that his intention is not to continue buying companies, but merely to keep his shareholders happy and run a successful business. However, the tourist industry knew it was just a matter of time before he responded to the TUI Thomson deal in order to reinforce his place in the European market. Both Airtours and Condor & Neckermann are big players in the Balearics.


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