Zurich-based travel group Kuoni Reisen Holding AG announced an agreement to acquire Gullivers Travel Associates (GTA) for $720 million from New York-based Travelport to boost its online offerings.

Established in London in 1975, privately-held GTA offers online travel services. GTA's key areas of focus are hotel reservations, coach services, transfers, sightseeing and destination services to group and independent travellers. GTA has in addition to Europe a particularly strong customer base in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and North American markets.

In acquiring GTA, Kuoni is investing in one of the fastest-growing business segments within the tourism industry, Peter Rothwell, CEO of the Kuoni Group said.

Kuoni said it expects the transaction to add to its cash earnings on a pre-synergy basis in the first full year of ownership and to deliver returns in excess of cost of capital in the third year. The transaction is scheduled to close in May.

Jeff Clarke, CEO of Travelport, said: Our strategy is to focus our energies on maximising the potential of our core proposition and, while GTA is a leader in its field with a strong proposition, this is a positive opportunity for us to accelerate our plans.

In fiscal 2010, GTA reported total transaction value of about $1.89 billion, net revenue of $294 million and adjusted EBITDA of $84 million. Almost 12 million hotel nights were booked via GTA in 2010.

GTA also serves consumers directly through its Octopus travel site. GTA, which operates over 30 offices in 26 cities, employs about 2,400 people.

Travelport is owned by Blackstone Group, One Equity Partners, Technology Crossover Ventures, and Travelport management. Travelport also owns around 48 percent of Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW), an online travel company.