Airtours snaps up two tour operators

AIRTOURS, the UK's second largest package holiday operator, yesterday shelled out pounds 17m in cash and shares for Panorama, one of the leading tour operators in the booming Irish market, and a further pounds 14.2m in cash for Vacation Express, one of the larger regional tour operators in the south- eastern US, based in Atlanta.

Both businesses are privately owned and small in comparison with Airtours, which carries 8.5m passengers a year and made pounds 120m in its last financial year. But the acquisitions will take Airtours into new markets, lead to cost savings, and feed into its business offering Mediterranean summer and Caribbean winter cruises, the chairman David Crossland said.

Panorama made a profit of pounds 3m in the year to September 1997, and carried about 55,000 passengers in the year that ended last night, maintaining an annual average growth of 32 per cent a year over the past seven years. Vacation Express made $4.2m (pounds 2.5m) in 1997 and expects to carry about 100,000 passengers in 1998. Airtours' shares bucked the market trend, rising 27.5p to 352.5p.

Meanwhile Eurocamp, the listed operator of camp sites and mobile-home holidays, reported a good year for its European businesses, but sales of short breaks in hotels were disappointing. The shares fell 4p to 186p.

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