(Corrects to add names of own-brand hotels)
LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - British travel company Thomas Cook has set up a 150 million pound ($208 million) hotel fund as part of a plan to raise margins through new own-branded hotels.
Thomas Cook, the company that pioneered the package holiday concept when it was set up in 1841, makes better margins from hotels which it owns and which tend to be higher-end and generate better customer loyalty.
While the company sends holidaymakers to about 3,000 hotels across in destinations from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and elsewhere, only about 190 of the properties are own-brand hotels operating under the names Casa Cook, Sunprime, and Sentido amongst others. Of those, the company owns only four.
Thomas Cook formed a strategic partnership with Switzerland-based hotel development company LMEY Investments in September and said on Wednesday that it was transferring two of the hotels it owns into the fund while its partner is transferring three hotels.
The fund, named Thomas Cook Hotel Investments, said its first project is the development of a new "Casa Cook" hotel in Ibiza, and it will then look to add further properties, said Thomas Cook's Chief Hotels Officer Ingo Burmester.
"We are now able to accelerate our plan to acquire established properties in popular destinations for us to transform into own-brand hotels," he said.
"We are in discussions with several hoteliers across the Mediterranean and envisage announcing further projects over the coming months."
Thomas Cook said in February that it was on course to meet annual profit forecasts, with recovering demand for holidays to Turkey helping to offset the impact of rising costs in Spain. ($1 = 0.7216 pounds) (Reporting by Sarah Young Editing by David Goodman)