68 Upper Thames Street
London, EC4V 3BJ
Telephone: (+44 20) 7507 5151
Subsidiary of H.I.S. Co. Ltd.
Founded: 1967 as Travel Time London Ltd.
Incorporated: 2017 as Group Miki Holdings
NAICS: 561510 Travel Agencies
Group Miki Holdings Ltd. is a U.K.-based provider of travel and tourism services operating through two main subsidiaries: Miki Travel Ltd., with headquarters in London, and its Japanese-based affiliate Miki Tourist Co. Ltd. Together, these companies operate on a global basis, with subsidiaries in more than 25 countries handling destinations throughout most of the world. Miki Travel focuses primarily on the business-to-business (B2B) travel and tourism market. The company provides a range of B2B products and services, mainly through its XML API platform, which links wholesalers, retailers, and corporate travel departments with an extensive database of hotels and other partners.
Miki also works as a wholesale tour provider, offering both prearranged packages as well as personalized tours and other services, marketed under the brand names of its third-party customers. Besides providing B2B services, Miki Tourist also works directly with consumers, providing tourism services primarily to Asia as well as to Hawaii and other popular Japanese tourist destinations. Group Miki Holdings was formerly known as GM Communications Limited until H.I.S. Co. Ltd., the Japanese travel and tourism leader, acquired majority control of the company. The company took on its new name in 2017.
Group Miki Holdings stems from a small travel agency opened in London by two Japanese expatriates, Shigetada Nakanishi and Masaaki Kageshima. At the time, Japan was in the midst of its post–World War II industrialization, which saw the country emerge as one of the world's manufacturing and economic powerhouses. Japan's rising economy, and the growing number of contacts between Japanese manufacturers and European retailers and other companies had sparked an early travel boom of increasingly affluent travelers from Japan seeking to visit Europe's capitals and landmarks. Nakanishi and Kageshima became some of the first to recognize the potential for organizing tours specifically targeting the cultural needs and interests of this new traveling public. In 1967 the pair, along with a number of Japanese-based partners, founded the travel agency as Travel Time London Ltd., while operating under the trade name Miki Travel.
To accommodate its future expansion, the company began developing its information technology infrastructure. This effort got underway in 1974, with the rollout of the first phase of the company's office computerization program. By 1977 the company had implemented its Direct Tour Operation System (DTOS), an early data and message transfer network linking the company's headquarters with its branch offices. This was superseded in 1983 by an updated system, dubbed OSCAR (for operation, sales, communication, account, rationalization), developed by the company itself. With the new system, Miki Travel boasted a fully integrated office and sales network. The full-scale rollout of OSCAR was completed in 1988.
By the 1980s Miki Travel had already become one of the top marketers of European vacations to Japanese tourists. The company continued to benefit from the surge in interest among the Japanese for European destinations during the decade. At the same time, the company began expanding its customer base, using its experience to begin providing European travel and tourism arrangements to customers around the world.
The company's growth was underscored by its success in scoring contracts as a general sales agent (GSA) for a growing number of clients. Among the first of these was Italy's Italiatour SpA, which granted Miki Travel GSA status in 1987. The following year, the company officially changed its name to Miki Travel Limited. The company also reincorporated its Tokyo subsidiary as a limited liability company, Miki Tourist KK, that year.
Miki Travel continued to expand its presence in Europe, which remained its primary market, opening nine additional branch offices between 1988 and 1994. The company also opened a branch in Nagoya, Japan, in 1989. During this time, the company extended its range of destinations to include tours and other services to the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and other markets in the Oceania region. In the early 1990s the company began serving destinations in the Middle East and Africa as well.
The company's GSA program continued to develop. In 1989 the company became the GSA for Japanese travelers to the World Cup of soccer held in Italy in 1990. In 1992 the company became the Japanese sales partner for the Eurodisney Resort Hotels ahead of the opening of the Disneyland Paris theme park. In that same year, Miki Tourist was appointed the GSA partner for the Irish Tourist Office and for Irish airline Aer Lingus for the Far East region. In part to accommodate this contract, Miki Tourist added a subsidiary in Hong Kong dedicated to serving travelers from Asia.
For most of its first 25 years, Miki Travel had focused on the B2B market, operating as a wholesaler and developing travel and tour packages for third parties. In 1991 the company expanded this business with the launch of its Myu service, which enabled travel agents to supply personalized and individual travel services. The company backed up the new services with the launch of the Myu Support System in 1993. In 1994 the company launched its Rex online hotel reservation systems for its Myu business as well. In 1999 the company added the Myu Information Centre in London, which provided tourism and traveling services directly to Japanese and other visitors to that city. The Myu service was expanded again with the addition of the internet-enabled Web Rex Plus platform to the group's existing online reservation system in 2003.
The Miki group continued expanding into new markets into the turn of the century. The company's Japanese network expanded with offices in Hiroshima, North Kanto, Sendai, and Yokohama in 1997. At the same time, Miki's European network grew to include offices in Lisbon, Portugal, and Prague, Czech Republic, in 1997; Budapest, Hungary, in 1998; and Dublin, Ireland, in 2000. The company also launched destination services to South Africa, starting in 2001. In that year, Miki Travel cemented its relationship with Disneyland Resort Paris, becoming its exclusive GSA in Japan. In the meantime, in response to the rapid growth of Japanese travelers to Hungary, the company upgraded its branch office there to full subsidiary status, founding Miki Travel Idegenforgalmi Kft in 2001.
Other growth initiatives launched by the company during this time included the opening of a sales office in the United States, in 2008, and a branch office in Warsaw, Poland, in 2009. In 2010 the company, which had begun marketing cruise ship tours the previous decade, became the first to market a Japanese cruise package aboard a foreign vessel, the Legend of the Seas, operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. In 2011 the company added Hawaii to its sales network. Back in Japan, meanwhile, the company added satellite offices in the Tokyo wards of Shibuya and Shinjuku, and a Tokyo branch of the Myu Information Centre, in 2012.
The growth of the Miki Travel and Miki Tourist businesses was reflected in GM Communications' rising revenues, which topped £228 million (approximately $380 million) in 2004, rising to £254 million (approximately $420 million) in 2007. Just six years later, the company's revenues had nearly doubled, nearing £480 million ($800 million). This growth earned the company status as one of the United Kingdom's fastest-growing midmarket private companies and the leader in the travel sector, with a ranking of 26 on the Sunday Times Top Track 250 list in 2013.
By that time, GM Communications had become part of the larger H.I.S. Co. Ltd., one of Japan's leading travel and tourism operators, which acquired a majority stake in the company in 2012. H.I.S. had been founded in 1980 and had expanded to include travel agencies, packaged tour services, and specialty travel retail stores, as well as hotel and resort operations and the operation of the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in southern Japan. The addition of GM Communications, which posted revenues of £535 million ($888 million) in 2014, helped drive H.I.S. Co.'s own revenues past ¥523 billion ($4.75 billion) that year.
Both Miki Travel and Miki Tourist continued their strong growth as part of the H.I.S. group. The company extended its operations to the Latin American markets for the first time, starting with services to destinations in South America in 2013. By 2015 the company had added service to destinations in the Central American region as well.
Amid the company's celebrations of its 50th anniversary in 2017, the GM Communications name was dropped, and Miki Travel and Miki Tourist were placed under a new holding company, Group Miki Holdings Ltd. In that year, the company brought in Kuoni veteran Olivier Moeschler as CEO of its Asian division. The hiring became part of the company's deployment of a threefold strategy based on technological development, international expansion, and strengthening of its management, in order to strengthen the Miki Travel brand's operations in Asia.
Among the company's technological developments was the rollout of a new hotel reservations platform, enabling travel agents in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, and other Asian markets to book rooms in more than 10,000 hotels across Europe. In 2018 the company also announced plans to roll out a similar platform for European restaurants by 2020. The company also took other initiatives to woo Asian travel agents. In 2018, for example, the company held a party in Manila for its Philippine-based partners. Backed by its powerful parent, Group Miki Holdings set out to transform itself into a global leader in destination travel services.
M. L. Cohen
Travel Products; B2B.
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Ocampo, Rosa. “Ex-Kuoni Moeschler out to Transform Miki Travel.” TTG Asia, February 14, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.ttgasia.com/2018/02/14/ex-kuoni-moeschler-out-to-transform-miki-travel/.