'Staycationers', swine flu and recession dent Kuoni's results

LUXURY holiday and tour operator Kuoni yesterday provided fresh evidence on how economic turmoil and the swine flu pandemic have damaged the leisure sector.<br /><br />The Zurich-based firm said it swung to a first-half loss of SFr51m (&pound;29m) compared with SFr26.5m profit in the same period a year ago due to adverse currency movements and rising concerns over the swine flu pandemic. Sales for the period shrank by 21 per cent to SFr17m.<br /><br />Chief executive Peter Rothwell said: &ldquo;The worldwide financial and economic crisis, low consumer confidence and strong negative currency movements have left their mark on Kuoni&rsquo;s result.&rdquo;<br /><br />The holiday firm has also been hit by the growing trend of so-called &ldquo;staycationers&rdquo; &ndash; people who are choosing the cheaper option of holidaying at home instead of going abroad.<br /><br />The group said that until 16 August total bookings were down by 21 per cent on the same period in 2008, with the UK market worst hit with bookings down by 23 per cent. The firm also revealed that members of the management will be forgoing part of their salaries to help the business through &ldquo;this challenging business year&rdquo;. The operator has cut more than 500 jobs and also announced a SFr106m cost-reduction plan.