National Holidays parent JG Travel Group is hopeful of rebuilding booking volumes to 2019 levels by 2023 as travel emerges from the Covid crisis, and more people initially consider domestic breaks.
New chief executive Andy Freeth told TTG he saw room for the group, in particular, to grow its trade business, building on its acquisition last year of National, which has long been a trade-friendly brand.
JG’s business through the trade, however, currently accounts for only about 12-13% of the group’s total business.
"Talking about growth in the middle of a pandemic is tricky," said Freeth. "But I’ve identified some areas I think we can work on.
"The business hasn’t historically worked with the trade. National did in pockets, but with [trade sales manager] Claire Dutton, [sales and yield director] Matt Herbert in place, and me, as I’ve got a bit of experience working with the trade, that’s going to be very useful to the business."
Freeth said it was important JG capitalised both on the acquisition of National, and also the increased demand for domestic travel owing to the Covid crisis.
"JG is a very strong, profitable, well-run, well-oiled business," said Freeth. "We’ve now added a business [National] with five times the customers.
"We have to make sure we have the structure and the foundations within the team, as well as the capabilities and organisation, to add all that volume without things breaking.
"And we have to strengthen those foundations so when the growth comes, we’ll be ready for it.
"We’re in a good position now for April onwards in terms of the volumes we have booked. We’re hopeful that after a relatively good year this year, we’ll be able to rebuild even further next year.
"And in year three , we’ll hopefully be somewhere near the volumes from 2019. That’s the loose plan."
Freeth said while there was little change needed at JG’s core Just Go! Holidays brand, which has traditionally been stronger in the south, there were things it could learn and take from National.
"Just Go! Holidays, pre-pandemic, offered fantastic products and great customer satisfaction, and enjoyed fantastic reviews and loyalty, with a huge amount of repeats," said Freeth.
"There’s not a lot we will change within that brand. The acquisition of Omega Breaks in 2018 presented opportunities to do more in theatreland.
"With National, it just gives us broader scope. Ticketed events, for example, that Just Go! perhaps hasn’t looked at in the past – we can see they sell very well with National so it’s something we can introduce to that Just Go! audience, and those options have been selling very well."
Another priority for Freeth is a "well-defined" digital and social strategy, which will be implemented over the coming weeks.
"When we look at our web traffic for National Holidays, 60-70% of the customers are on mobile and 15-20% are on tablets," said Freeth.
"And when we look at out customers, a 70-year-old now is perhaps where a 60-year-old was ten years ago.
"The use of smartphones is as a lot more prevalent too – consumers are more tech savvy now than they have ever been."