29 September 2022

New Executive Board at the DER Touristik Group: “We will move forward together as a group”

In an interview, the three members of the new Executive Board, Dr Ingo Burmester (CEO, Central Europe), Leif Vase Larsen (CEO International), and Boris Schnabel (CFO Group) talk about their plans for the coming year.
Reading time: 7 min.

DER Touristik has a new senior management team: From 1 January 2023, a newly appointed Executive Board comprising three of the most experienced senior managers at DER Touristik will be at the helm of the REWE Group’s tourism division and will report directly to the CEO, Lionel Souque. What have the new management trio got planned and what strategies do they intend to pursue? We talked to Dr Ingo Burmester (CEO, Central Europe), Leif Vase Larsen (CEO International), and Boris Schnabel (CFO Group) and got their take on this and other questions.

As newly appointed members of the Executive Board, will you be pushing ahead with a new common strategy? Let’s look at where the DER Touristik Group currently is and where you want to be.

Dr Ingo Burmester: We are starting out from a good position. Under the leadership of the current CEO, Sören Hartmann, we have achieved incredible growth in the past ten years and today we are Europe’s second-largest tourism company. We have expanded from three to 16 source markets and now hold a considerable share of the market in all regions.

Boris Schnabel: And let’s not forget that we’ve built up an extensive, fully integrated DMC network and a fast growing hotel division. Our products now cover the entire value chain. Those are huge successes that we achieved under the leadership of Sören Hartmann. All three of us are grateful that we are able to build on such strong foundations going forward.

Dr Ingo Burmester
CEO Central Europe DERTOUR Group

is CEO Central Europe at the DERTOUR Group.

Boris Schnabel

is Chief Finance Officer (CFO) at the DERTOUR Group.

The pandemic was a difficult blow, wasn’t it?

Leif Vase Larsen: The pandemic really put the pressure on us, of course. But we have a strong backbone in the form of our parent company, the REWE Group, so we were able to weather the coronavirus crisis and used the time to prepare for our future growth with acquisitions on the dynamic growth markets of eastern Europe and a fast expanding hotel division. We also optimized our cost structures to become more profitable. We can reap the benefits of that now that we are moving forward together as a group and heralding the next phase.

leif-vase -larsen
Leif Vase Larsen

is CEO Northern Europe at the DERTOUR Group.

How would describe the next chapter ahead of you?

Leif Vase Larsen: We are now seeing the tourism industry make a rapid recovery. This is an important stage that will decide which companies will lead the tourism industry of the future. We are therefore convinced that it’s time to harness the full strength of our international group. Bringing the group closer together will make us much stronger, more resilient, and more active on the market than before, while also ensuring that we benefit from synergies.

You say that this is an important stage for the future of DER Touristik. What challenges lie ahead? What issues would you like to tackle?

Dr Ingo Burmester: In the light of new competitors and the shift to online business, we will have to define a clear, future-proof strategy that allows us to occupy a unique position on the market. This will only be possible if we learn from best practices across all our markets, continue to integrate the various areas of our value chain, and work together to advance issues that are important for the future, such as sustainability. We must also create the best possible customer journey and ensure maximum digital convenience – from the search for travel ideas to booking and, ultimately, to the travel experience itself.

Boris Schnabel: At the same time, we have to sharpen the focus of our day-to-day operations and become more resilient – particularly with regard to rising inflation and higher energy prices. And, of course, we have to react to the increasing personnel shortages that are severely affecting our entire industry. Our future success will continue to depend on the loyalty, commitment, and passion of our employees, and we must utilize the Group’s strength to attract and retain international talent.

What does it mean that we will operate as one group?

Leif Vase Larsen: Operating as one group means that we all champion a common group strategy that defines customer focus, digital services, and product exclusivity as strategic pillars and puts them at the core of our business activities. We want to be close to the customer and use data analysis to anticipate trends. We want to improve the digital convenience for our customers by providing intelligent services and applications that make booking travel extremely simple and more personal.

Dr Ingo Burmester: At the same time, a more international and more tightly integrated structure means that regions and divisions will have to coordinate more closely. So, employees in group functions will have to interact much more intensively with their departments in other regions. We will also enhance the existing structure with the addition of new group functions.

Boris Schnabel: As part of the new strategy we will be introducing new processes and guiding principles that will allow us to work towards the same goals.

What do you hope to gain from that cooperation?

Dr Ingo Burmester: It is our goal to make intelligent use of expertise and best practices from throughout the Group. This will allow us to benefit from one another and establish true end-to-end thinking. Let me give you a couple of examples: By leveraging the extensive knowledge and solid network of our DMCs to complete new hotel projects, we will be able to create a better travel experience, integrate destination services early on, and develop exclusive products. And making use of the experience and best practices from more mature digital markets, such as Scandinavia or eastern Europe, will aid us with the digital transformation in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Speaking of digital transformation – what role will digitization play in the strategy of DER Touristik?

Leif Vase Larsen: Digitization will be a key driver of our increased customer focus and help us to better understand customer preferences along the value chain. That’s why digital services will be one of the main pillars of our group strategy and help us to ensure maximum digital convenience – from booking to the travel experience itself.

How do you intend to ensure that local or more specific business concerns are addressed?

Boris Schnabel: Our three strategic pillars bring all regions together under one roof. We will nevertheless leave room for local and more specific business concerns in order to give all markets and divisions the opportunity to achieve their full potential. For example, we still have to be able to respond to the needs of travellers in all countries – such as market-specific preferences for certain destinations or customized travel trends like sporting holidays, luxury travel, or glamping.

Back to the new structure: how will decision-making processes change?

Dr Ingo Burmester: We all know that you have to react to the market fast, as was demonstrated by what happened with flights this summer. So, setting clear operational priorities that enable us to mount a fast and well coordinated response at an operational level is key for us. This is also the reason why all our core competences are represented on the Executive Board.

Boris Schnabel: We will also be working closely with Lionel Souque, CEO of the REWE Group, which will ensure fast decision-making processes at Group level and further strengthen our position within the REWE Group.