The Polish travel agency Polskie Biuro Podróży Orbis was founded in 1920. Its founders wanted to establish a travel agency rendering services of an international standard – an institution representing a “window on the world” for the citizens of a new, reborn Poland.
Orbis was soon ranked as one of the 10 best travel agencies in the world, and in 1933, following the purchase of Orbis shares by a state bank PKO, the Company moved its corporate seat to Warsaw. Orbis was fast to develop its operations: in 1939, the Company had 136 branches in Poland and 19 abroad, with 500 employees, as well as four hotels offering altogether 360 rooms. In 1939, Orbis rendered services to over 5 million clients.
The Second World War interrupted Orbis activity; the overwhelming part of its property was damaged. After the war, only the Brussels, New York, Tel Aviv and London offices survived. The year 1944 saw the establishment of a state-owned enterprise Przedsiębiorstwo Państwowe Orbis that purchased the shares of the pre-war company. Until the end of the 40s, the Company ran mainly intercity coach connections in Poland and had a few hotels offering accommodation to Poles traveling around the country.
From 1946 to 1959, the enterprise managed a guest house network offering 5,000 beds and provided services onboard sleeping and restaurant cars in trains. In 1951, 9 of the best Polish hotels were incorporated into Orbis so as to prepare them to render services to foreign guests. Until 1959, the basic activity of Orbis, typical of that period, consisted in arranging transportation for workers and farmers, organization of youth conventions and meetings of state administration officials and similar gatherings.
On top of that, Orbis organized travels abroad: stays at the Black Sea, the Balaton Lake and the Adriatic seaside in Yugoslavia, and trips to Western European countries, as well as very popular cruises on the Batory ship or rented Russian ships. In 1979, 1.5 million guests were served in Poland and, put together, all of the Orbis clients in the world were about 12.2 million in number.
The Orbis hotel department developed in the years 1960 - 1980; 34 new hotels were erected. Poland, opening more and more to the world, needed a large hotel network. In 1980, Orbis had 60 % of all hotel rooms in Poland. Hotel occupancy rate stood at 65.1%, half of that figure contributed by guests coming from abroad with their pockets filled in with hard currency. In the 70s, when the first investment projects of international hotel networks’ standards were launched, 6 Novotels were built – 4 of them have been in operation to date.
Besides the expansion of hotel and travel services, Orbis developed also the passenger transport offer, and in the period from 1960 to 1980, the number of buses increased from 35 to 555, while the number of cars went from 31 up to 373.
In the 80s, a period marked by a changing economic reality and falling tourism income, hotels became the basis of Orbis activity. New hotels were erected, at the end of 1990 the Orbis network consisted of 53 hotels. In 1991, the state-owned enterprise Orbis was transformed into a company wholly owned by the State Treasury. In July 1993, two companies were spun off: Orbis Travel and Orbis Transport, with Orbis S.A. holding a majority stake in both of them. On June 27, 1997, the General Meeting of Shareholders decided to offer Orbis S.A. shares on the public market. Orbis S.A. shares have been quoted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange since November 15, 1997.
In 1999, the stake held by the State Treasury in the Company’s shareholding structure declined to below 50%. The month of August 2000 witnessed the last stage of privatization process - Orbis gained a strategic partner, Accor, a major worldwide group in tourism, travel agents and corporate services, and a European leader on the hotel market.
In 2010 new strategy of companyreorganizationwas announced. The Group focused on its key competence – hospitality and disposed of its other businesses:
- Orbis Travel (2010)
- Orbis Casino (2011)
- Orbis Transport (2013)
The Orbis Hotel Group is the largest hotel network in Poland and Central Europe, managing nearly 70 hotels with 12 thousand rooms.
On 7th January 2012 Orbis signed an agreement with its strategic partner Accor of buying 38 hotels in Eastern Europe together with new Master License Agreement. Thus, Orbis has strengthened its leading position in the hotel industry in Eastern Europe and is the exclusive licensor of all brands of Accor in 16 countries in the region.
Today, Orbis Hotel Group is the largest hotel chain in Poland and Eastern Europe, which offers nearly 20 thousand rooms in almost 120 hotels.