HN: Looking at the results, has this season been the best ever?
Indeed, we've registered record-high figures as regards sales, expected profit, and the number of customers. Our revenues will be in excess of five billion crowns, which means that our income this year will be one billion crowns higher than in 2016. EBITDA, which includes earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, will be in excess of 200 million crowns, while we earned about 88 million last year.
In my view, our greatest accomplishment is the fact that we have grown in all three main product segments. The highest growth, by as much as 40%, was recorded in the segment of Mediterranean holiday packages. Overall, I would estimate that the entire market grew 15-20% in this segment. Likewise, the segment of trips to exotic destinations gas grown by tens of percentage points year-over-year. Revenues from skiing packages sold under the Nev-Dama brand have grown by 10% as well. In total, 360,000 customers will have traveled with us in the course of this year.
HN: How many Czechs have used the services of all domestic travel agencies to fly to seaside destinations this year?
I think that it could be some 850,000 people. This year, revenues received by travel agencies from the sale of foreign trips will range between 20 and 23 billion crowns, including bus trips and packages where customers use their own means of transport. Vacation packages with air travel organized by Czech travel agencies account for approximately 15 billion.
HN: What is the most important factor that has contributed to the robust increase in your revenues this year?
The current favorable economic situation has played a role. It is evident that people have money and want to afford themselves a nice vacation. At the same time, Czechs are no longer afraid of migrants and terrorism in holiday destinations. These factors adversely affected the entire vacation market in 2016, when we were happy to maintain revenues at the same level as in the preceding year, while our last year's earnings dropped by nearly 40% to approximately 90 million crowns.
Another contributing factor is the fact that we continue to make investments into technologies and the websites of all our brands – Fischer, NEV-DAMA, and eTravel. Thanks to that, we're able to offer a broader portfolio of products, including dynamic bundles, as well as prices that are more competitive.
HN: How do technologies help you sell products?
The technologies we currently use allow customers to choose such options as the length of stay, transport, hotel, and the time of departure and arrival. In addition, travelers can pick the airline they want to use and choose from airports in Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Pardubice, Vienna, Nurnberg, Dresden, and in other cities. At the same time, our system allows selecting from over 50,000 hotels which we either have direct partnerships with or which are booked through the largest hotel banks. At this time, we are the only company in the Czech Republic capable of providing such comprehensive services.
HN: Do you expect that the next season will be as prosperous as this year?
Sales of first minute summer packages for 2018 are tens of percent higher than a year ago. Thanks to the fact that wages are increasing, there has been a significant rise in the number of people who want to buy costlier vacation packages and fly to exotic destinations. A few years ago, proceeds from the sale of these packages accounted for no more than several percent of our turnover. Today, exotic destinations are one of the pillars of our business together with the Mediterranean and skiing trips.
HN: What exotic countries do Czech tourists visit most often?
The United Arab Emirates is the clear winner in this regard because of the available transport options. There are three airlines that fly from Prague to the United Arab Emirates, offering a total of 18 flights per week. Other exotic destinations include the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Oman, and islands in the Indian Ocean, such as Zanzibar, Mauritius, and Maldives. Demand is also growing for trips to Kenya.
HN: The number of last-minute seaside vacation packages offered last summer was rather low. Will the situation improve next year?
I think that buying a last-minute holiday package for the next summer might be a problem in at least three regions. Especially in Greece, because vacation packages there were sold out in the summer of this year, and buying additional capacity to meet the demand was not possible. The scenario is expected to repeat itself in Greece next year, as well. Spain, Mallorca in particular, is another destination in high demand. My impression is that the island can't accommodate any more people, but the popularity of Mallorca is as high as ever. My personal tip is that Turkey will see a great comeback because first-minute sales for Turkish destinations are rising not only in the Czech Republic, but in other countries, as well. Many tourists from Germany and other European countries are planning to spend their holidays in Turkey.
HN: The Czech currency has gained in value, and it is expected that its strengthening will continue. Have you reduced the price of your packages?
The exchange rate is one of a number of factors that determine the price. The final price depends on the price of air transport, the price of the hotel, and demand for a given locality. Taking that into account, the price of some packages will increase, while others will be less expensive. However, it is impossible to tell which ones will follow which trend. Vacations in Greece might be more expensive because there has been a substantial increase in demand this year.
Likewise, we can see that trips to five-star all-inclusive hotels in Turkey will sell very well. However, the average price to Mediterranean holiday packages should remain at this year's level. One of the fundamental aspects of our strategy is to maintain competitive prices. Because we've stopped selling products through Invia this year, our costs have been reduced, and that will be reflected in the final price of our holiday packages.
HN: Is the split from Invia, the largest online vendor of travel packages in the Czech Republic, final?
Tourism is a very low margin industry, and whoever wants to succeed must be able to continue offering competitive prices. With more than five billion in turnover, we are the number one on this market. We are able to sell the vast majority of our products using our own sales channels and reduce distribution costs this way.
We have a strong brand, which allows us selling even more packages than in previous years when we had a partnership with Invia. Our long-term strategic goal is to succeed in the segment of sales of vacation packages. To accomplish that, we have a large network of branches, and we continue to invest tens of millions of crowns into new technologies.
In the end, customers might be able to save several thousand crowns compared to the time when our products were sold through Invia.
HN: What measures are you planning to improve the sale of travel packages through your websites?
We want to improve the response time to make it comparable to the leading portals of foreign travel agencies. We will also fine-tune the system to reduce the amount of clicking customers need to do to place an order. Another thing we want to do is to provide customers with simple and clear information on their chosen destination. Very suitable for this purpose have been maps of resorts that clearly show to customers their destination, the distance from the airport, and Trip Advisor recommendations for specific venues to see in the locality. Those who use new technologies first choose an interesting destination, and only then pick the hotel. With that in mind, we will continue to improve our websites.
HN: Are you planning a mobile application to sell travel packages?
It is true that more and more people are searching for travel packages using mobile devices. However, they conduct searches using traditional websites. At this time, our objective is to make sure that our responsive website works flawlessly on telephones and tablets. In that regard, our efforts are successful. Nonetheless, creating a mobile application is a possibility in the future. We already have an application for Nev-Dama, which provides weather forecasts and information on snow conditions in winter resorts to skiers who buy a trip using the application.