The growing demand for author's tours, due to which the margin of such projects already reaches 40%, attracts institutional investors to this segment. Thus, one of the founders of the Russian Funds group, Konstantin Beirit, could invest in the business of the specialized tour operator Wind of Freedom. Experts point to growth of this segment by 30% until the end of 2024, but we are still talking about a limited number of travelers.
The co-founder of the Russian Funds group, Konstantin Beirit, may be related to the business of the Wind of Freedom tour operator. In mid-December, the entrepreneur received 35% in Wind of Freedom LLC, as follows from the data Kartoteka.ru. The information is confirmed by an extract from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities dated February 1, 2024, but already on February 6, the businessman’s share was transferred to the general director of Wind of Freedom Tatyana Simonova. Russian Funds and one of the founders of Wind of Freedom, Viktor Bobok, did not answer Kommersant.
Forward Legal lawyer Maxim Ignatov notes that the transfer of shares to the company’s management is often of a technical nature. According to him, in such a situation we are talking about “fronting” ownership, when the owner of the business does not want to be openly listed in public registers and resorts to “hidden” ownership of the company through management. This scheme is often used to protect against various potential risks, the lawyer explains.
At the same time, Denis Bykanov, a partner at the law firm Pavlova, Golotvin, Bykanov and Partners, says that the scheme of purchasing a stake in a company and its subsequent transfer to the general director is also common in investment transactions. “In this case, the director will be directly interested in improving the company’s performance,” the expert notes.
The tour operator “Wind of Freedom” has existed since 2003, specializing in individual and signature tours. The founders of Wind of Freedom LLC, according to the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, are now Viktor Bobok (15%), Egor Yakovlev (35%) and Tatyana Simonova (50%). The company does not disclose financial results. Kommersant’s interlocutor on the travel market believes that the market value of such a tour operator is five to six net profits per year and is unlikely to exceed 10 million rubles.
The Russian Funds group has existed since 1997. In addition to Konstantin Beirit, the first head of the board of directors of Rambler, Sergei Vasiliev, is considered its founder. The portfolio of Russian Funds includes PJSC Rusolovo, the gold mining holding Seligdar, the Melkom Group of Companies, the Last Minute Store chain, the Azimut Hotel Volga in Astrakhan, and the park hotel Krechet in the Smolensk region. Recently, the group has been actively investing in tourism assets. At the end of December 2022, Russian Funds received 20% in the Azimut Olympic Hotel in Moscow (see “Kommersant” dated December 26, 2022). And last summer, a hotel complex on Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal was taken over by her (see “Kommersant” dated September 25, 2023).
According to Sergei Romashkin, general director of the tour operator Dolphin, about 100 thousand Russians go on signature tours a year. Vice-President of the Russian Union of Tourism Industry Dmitry Gorin calls the market small, but actively growing. YouTravel.me expects that its volume will increase by 30% this year, linking the interest with a decrease in accessibility for Russians in many destinations due to logistics, visa or other difficulties. As a result, tourists have become more actively looking for non-standard travel options both within the country and to popular foreign destinations such as Turkey and Egypt. Mr. Gorin calls the problem of the author’s tour segment a significant share of gray companies and individuals operating illegally. This leaves questions regarding the provision of guarantees and the safety of tourists, he notes.
The margin of mass tourism is traditionally low: for large businesses, according to Mr. Gorin, it is usually estimated at 1.5–5%. At the same time, in the segment of author’s tours, this figure, according to him, can reach 10–15%. Sergey Romashkin suggests that we should still talk about 30–40%: with lower profitability, given the relatively small flow of clients, there is no point in conducting author’s tours. This is indeed not the first time that large investors have paid attention to the segment of author’s tours. Thus, Rostelecom at the end of last year bought 28% of the GuideGo aggregator specializing in their sale.