BR Interview | Ionuț Nedea ( & Ferenc Rigo (Szallas Group): A groundbreaking deal for Romanian tourism

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 09/07/2024 | 13:13

In a groundbreaking transaction that marks a significant milestone in the Romanian tourism industry, has been acquired by Szallas Group for over 21 million euros. Business Review sat down with Ionuț Nedea, Owner and CEO of, and Ferenc Rigo, CEO of Szallas Group, to discuss the motivations behind this acquisition, its impact on the tourism market, and their strategic visions for the future.


Ionuț Nedea, Owner and CEO of

What inspired you to start, and how did you envision its growth back in 2003?

Back in 2003, when we created the company, we did not start from the idea of ​​this business as it is today. We wanted to create a website about the destination in general. For me, it was somehow a natural move to create a website promoting the Romanian coast because I was born here, I grew up by the sea, I love the sea and I wanted to connect my business activity with my passion for the sea. But what inspired me to move further, from an informative portal to a business, was the fact that I saw how people who entered the site were interested in booking accommodation at the properties that were present on the site at that time, in 2004. So, in 2005 I licensed the travel agency. Almost 20 years ago, when we took this step, online bookings were brand new on the Romanian tourism market, both for tourists and businesses active in the field. I think this was my own business revelation: I realized that the future is Online and that the market will go in this direction, although at that time the classic, offline business model was still working very well. That’s why we’ve focused our investments on site development and automating the booking flow since the beginning.

Can you elaborate on how this acquisition by Szallas Group will impact and the Romanian tourism market?

Personally, I think that the impact will be so great that it will change the paradigm of sea tourism in Romania and of domestic tourism. The fact that a new entity has been created, a group of travel agencies that is best positioned in the area of ​​domestic tourism, but which also is open to and from the external market creates opportunities that Romania has never had before. It is important to distinguish between incoming tourism before ’89, which was a state policy, and how this incoming tourism at the seaside will be developed on a competitive market with normal mechanisms, where we can be in the position to open the destination to foreign tourists. We have the advantage that the parent company is present in countries that supplied foreign tourists to Romania before ’89: Poland or The Czech Republic.

Beyond this huge opportunity for the destination, this transaction strengthens the market in a way that will allow it to face competition from abroad – I mean companies that are not oriented towards the development of the destination, but towards its exploitation. I believe that this will lead to an increase in quality in the destination by preserving our business model which supports the partnership with the seaside hoteliers.

As you continue to work within post-acquisition, what are your key priorities and strategic goals for the company?

During this time when I’ll continue to be involved in business, my constant concern will be to preserve our business model and the relationships created over the years, to create synergies between the current company and the one that takes over it. I will also make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. Last but not least, I want us to capitalize on these new opportunities created by the transaction by preparing the incoming project with the new partners.

What were some of the major challenges you faced in building, and how did you overcome them to achieve your current success?

In almost 20 years of business development, we have focused on two main axes: technological development and orientation of the company’s policies towards the client. All our decisions were based on the needs of the tourists. That’s why we sought to make our flows more efficient and transparent and through our activity to bring additional value both for the clients and for the hoteliers. This requires several decisions taken, some in difficult moments such as the pandemic period, when we had to protect the interests of the tourist, but also understand the needs of the market (of the hoteliers). The present shows us that we managed to make good decisions, which strengthened our brand and we won the trust of our tourists and partners who stayed with us.

Another challenge we faced was the continuous process of learning and educating the market because from the very beginning we came up with a new business model, which involved online and technology. Together with our partners and our clients, we went through a learning and adaptation process. But in every moment we have focused on the customers’ needs and we’ve created solutions to increase their satisfaction.

What would you like to convey to your loyal customers and commercial partners about this new phase for

The message I want to convey is an optimistic one, because we are talking about the continuity of a successful business, which we are bringing to a higher stage. We are at the moment of making an important leap in a new stage of development of the with the integration in a regional context so that the company can face the future challenges and the competition with big players, some of them global. The message is a reliable one because we will continue to strengthen our position and bring value to the market both for customers, who will have access to all domestic destinations and for hotel partners.


Ferenc Rigo, CEO of Szallas Group

What motivated Szallas Group to acquire, and how does this align with your broader strategy in the CEE region?

The acquisition of marks a significant milestone for Szallas Group. This strategic move not only solidifies our market position in Romania but also highlights our commitment to expanding our presence in Central and Eastern Europe. Szallas Group has already a leading position in the domestic accommodation segment in Hungary and now we are focusing on consolidating our positions in Romania and Poland too.

How do you plan to integrate into Szallas Group, and what synergies do you expect to realize from this acquisition?

Our main goal is to maintain the core values and business model of and also to build on the existing team know-how and expertise. Technology and marketing is where we think it is logical to look for synergies. Our approach to integration will be gradual, similar to our process with Travelminit, which joined Szallas Group in 2020 and completed its technical integration only this year. Once we receive the approval from authorities both teams will start to cooperate and plan the future together.

With the acquisition of, what are your plans for expanding Szallas Group’s presence in Romania and beyond?

In Romania, we aim to become the second-largest generalist player on the market. This acquisition will significantly enhance our capability to serve Romanian customers in terms of wide inventory, competitive offers and good user experience. Furthermore, our goal is to establish a network that meets local needs across the CEE and also boost regional traveling.

How will this acquisition enhance the travel options and experiences available to your customers in the region?

The acquisition will allow us to offer a wider range of options to tourists, from coastal to mountainous regions. Travelminit focuses on short weekend getaways to smaller inland accommodations in every region of the country, while Litoralul Romanesc is the country’s leader in vacation getaways to Romanian seaside resorts. Together, we will be able to offer our customers a comprehensive travel experience.

Looking ahead, what are your long-term goals for Szallas Group, particularly in terms of growth and innovation in the travel industry?

Romania is a country where we believe the growth of travel services will be fastest, which will come from two drivers: a). the economy continues to grow at a faster pace than comparable countries, b). the digitalisation rate in the accommodation market is lower than in neighboring countries, therefore we also see strong growth potential. Technology and product innovation is core focus for Szallas Group, we maintain our investments to offer year-on-year better user convenience, unique mobile experience and great value-for-money offers. A few of our top product priorities are a loyalty program, a new mobile application, discounts on local attractions, and export Romanian seaside packages in CEE.

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Mihai-Alexandru Cristea | 28/06/2024 | 12:25
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