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I. Havas Voyages: the treacherous path of an iconic brand

A brief history of the brand


Two centuries ago, the pioneering French entrepreneur Charles-Louis Havas created the first press agency in a small office with…carrier pigeons! Havas now stands as one of the world’s largest communications group. Its tourism branch was born in 1945. In the last twenty years, the path of the iconic brand “Havas Voyages” has been far from smooth.



The Havas Voyages brand was passed from the loving arms of American Express, Thomas Cook, Nouvelles Frontières and Carlson Wagonlit Travel before joining the French group Marietton this Fall of 2015 - Photo TourMaG.com
The Havas Voyages brand was passed from the loving arms of American Express, Thomas Cook, Nouvelles Frontières and Carlson Wagonlit Travel before joining the French group Marietton this Fall of 2015 - Photo TourMaG.com
Havas Voyages was successively taken over by American Express, Thomas Cook, Nouvelles Frontières and Carlson Wagonlit Travel before joining the French group Marietton in the Fall of 2015.

TourMaG.com summarizes the journey of the “Tourism” branch of the Havas group.

Everything begins in 1820. A man called Charles-Louis Havas, a translator in his profession, wants to sell to the French press information taken and translated from the foreign press.

Since the Chappe telegraph - the only modern form of distribution at the time - was exclusively reserved to the government, he will use the services of diligence [Old French speed coaches - translater’s note], railways, and…carrier pigeons!

In 1835, the humble office becomes the first French press agency. Right in 1852, Charles-Louis Havas splits his activity into two branches, one for information (the future AFP [Agence France Press agency - translator’s note] and the other for advertisement.

Throughout the years, the company, that then became Havas Conseil SA, expands its consulting activities to advertising, billboards, audiovisual, press, publishing, and tourism.

The first travel agency will open its doors to the public on Avenue de l’Opéra in Paris, in 1938. In reality, it is only after being nationalized in 1945 that the Havas agency will jump into tourism.

American Express takes over the “Business Travel” branch

To develop further, the tourism branch will resort to franchise. It will differentiate two activities: business travel and leisure travel.

The tourism branch will be directed from 1983 to 1987, by Serge Weinberg, former Chief of Staff of the Budget Minister of the time, Laurent Fabius.

Nationalized after the war, the Havas group will once again be privatized in 1986 by Edouard Balladur, State Minister on Finances and Privatization.

Nominated in 1987 as president of the management board of Havas Tourisme, Christophe Charpentier - of strong character - knows that travel will never be a core business for the group. Instead, he focuses on building partnerships.

In front of the globalization of business travel, he opts to create an alliance with the world leader in the sector, American Express, in January 1996. The new company will be owned at 81% by Havas Voyages and 19% by Amex.

In 1998, the Havas group becomes a branch by 100% of the Générale des Eaux, which would then become Vivendi.

A the time, observers were questioning whether the Havas group had the will to maintain its branch specialized in travel distribution.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow…

Written by Pierre Coronas translated by Joséphine Foucher the 16/09/2015
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