That was the plea from Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2holidays and sister airline Jet2.com, at the operator’s agent conference in Tenerife last week.
“Every time you book a Thomas Cook or Tui holiday it gets ploughed back into their business, to keep the shop across the road from you open. You are helping your competitor compete against you,” he said.
“We should be stopping people going into Thomas Cook or Tui shops, and switch-selling them to one of our products,” he insisted.
He cited Jet2holidays’ wider product portfolio, more flexible durations and unique Resort Flight Check-In service as further reasons to sell Jet2holidays over its competitors.
Trade sales currently account for 28% of Jet2holidays’ business, down from 32% before Thomas Cook and Tui turned Jet2holidays off.
“We can get that percentage back up beyond 32% now,” Heapy said.
“We have no upper limit on trade sales. Trade sales could be at 50%, 70%. We just want to take the people of the UK on holiday.”
Heapy also sought to reassure agents about the company’s financial stability, in light of Monarch’s collapse, and pointed to the Dart Group’s profits being up 30% in the first half of the financial year, with nearly £1 billion of cash in the bank.
“You can have absolute confidence that we are here to stay,” he said.
He admitted the operator is growing fast, with its Atol license increasing from 2.5 million passengers for 2017/18 to around 3 million next year, but insisted this was “steady organic growth”.
Heapy warned agents of the huge responsibilities they will face if they continue to dynamically package, and act as principle, after the new Package Travel Directive comes into force next July.
“Can you handle gastric illness claims? Could you cope operationally and financially with the failure of an airline? Can you handle overbooking problems at midnight on a Sunday night?” he asked. “At Jet2 we have thousands of people in head office and in our resorts who take away the strain for you.”
Revealing that the trade support team in head office will be expanded next year, Heapy told agents: ‘We still deal with our agent partners like we are a small company. We haven’t got big, fat, arrogant and slow.”
Head of trade Alan Cross added that he was “delighted” by the announcement from Thomas Cook last week that it is to close a further 50 branches.
“Out of those 50 shops that close there will be 30 new independent agents who can work with us,” he told TTG. “Some of our best-performing agencies are former Cook and Tui agents.”
More than 250 agents flew out to Tenerife for Jet2holidays’ third VIP conference, split into two different groups.