Thousands Of Agents In Germany Affected By The Data-Sharing Incident
Thousands of travel agents in Germany are embroiled in a scandal involving the sharing of sensitive business data by their consortium’s head office.
Leading agency consortium RTK gave tour operator FTI access to the specific sales data of up to 4,000 travel agencies over an eight-year period, which led to the scandal, which was revealed by business journal Handelsblatt. Germany's third-largest operator is FTI.
German travel trade title FVW reported last week that RTK shared “extremely detailed sales information from nearly 3,000 travel agencies, broken down by individual agency, tour operator, destination and hotel”, showing how much each generated and sales on behalf of competitor tour operators. The data was shared “monthly, weekly and even daily”.
Approximately 3,000 agencies are a part of the RTK consortium, and an additional 1,000 agencies are covered through joint ventures with Tui and the German company Schauinsland-Reisen.
Up until its release in March of this year, the data has been exchanged since 2015.
The billionaire Samih Sawiris, a member of the affluent Sawiris family in Egypt and the president of resort developer and operator Orascom Development, is a majority stakeholder in both RTK and FTI. The majority of FTI was not, however, under Sawiris' control during the data sharing period. In 2014, he purchased a 74.9% interest in RTK as well as a nearly 34% stake in FTI. Then, in 2021, Sawiris acquired Dietmar Gunz, the founder of FTI, bringing his ownership to just over 75%. The balance of RTK is owned by the German regional bank VR. Since 2021, Wolfgang Altmüller, the bank's chairman, has presided over the FTI Touristik supervisory board.
FVW reported that agencies which switched to FTI were rewarded with higher basic commission rates and additional commissions as well as “preferential treatment for fam trips, roadshows and other events”.
After an examination by attorneys hired by the consortium, at least one senior management member of RTK, Lars Helmreich, resigned. However, the solicitors said they did not discover any contravention of any criminal, antitrust, or competition laws.
The affair has prompted "regret" from RTK and FTI, respectively.
Lawyers acting on behalf of several companies, including Tui, are considering legal action.