TUI forecasts 25pc sales rise

Hotelbeds, the accommodation wholesaler owned by Europe's biggest tour operator TUI Travel said it expected sales to rise by 25 percent this year and planned to ramp up its expansion in the Americas and Asia.

The business, which sells accommodation at over 45,000 hotels in 147 countries to airlines and travel firms, reported total transaction values of 982 million euros (£844m) in 2010 and expects that to rise by 25 percent this year.

Hotelbeds' global reach has helped it achieve strong growth rates despite dire economic conditions in some source markets, Joan Vila, managing director of TUI Travel's accommodation & destinations told Reuters in an interview.

"At this particular time there are not that many businesses that have this kind of growth rate. We have always had a global appetite, the world is our market place," Villa said, adding that the business is particularly targeting expansion in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Korea and India.

Hotelbeds, whose clients include EasyJet, Air France-KLM and Travel Republic, also said on Monday it planned to increase its global workforce of over 6,000 staff by more than twenty percent in the next five years.

It is also increasing sales and marketing spend by 40 percent and IT investment by 43 per cent.

The business is looking to take advantage of a sharp rise in demand for online accommodation as customers increasingly opt to book online rather than through high street travel shops.

Demand for online accommodation is forecast to grow by eight per cent each year, according to research group Euromonitor.