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'Packages have a long way to go'

“Far from being their demise, our research shows people – including young people – are turning to packages, particularly if they want to do something complicated. They’re seeing that having someone who can organise a bespoke package with protection and support is a lot easier than sorting it themselves.


"And for the industry, margins are stronger in package holidays because you can price at your own level. I think ‘the package’ has a long way to go.”

Cook’s demise leaves a gap in the market, which Tanzer acknowledges is already being filled by Jet2, Tui and easyJet’s relaunched holidays division. “It’s a vote of confidence in the holiday sector,” says Tanzer. “EasyJet has the scale and aviation expertise, they’ve put an experienced team of tour operators together. We welcome their arrival.”


Moreover, Tanzer believes easyJet Holidays will encourage package holiday providers to embrace customisation
and flexibility. “It’s part of their differentiation,” he says. “Their schedules allow customers to choose their own days of arrival and departure.


“Personalisation of packages is a trend we’ve picked up. It’s more complex, but you’re adding value, you can get better margin. Customers will demand it. Those with more rigid programmes are going to lose market share.”


The travel sector lost another venerable brand last year – Super Break. Its failure raised questions about Abta’s decision more than a decade ago to allow members to protect only what they are legally required to, and forgo protection of, for instance, accommodation-only bookings.


Tanzer tells me this decision ensured operators such as Super Break did not suffer a disadvantage to bed banks. However, he acknowledges the Super Break failure has left Abta with work to do. “The issue is what is and is not protected,” he explains. “If you looked at Super Break’s T&Cs, they stated accommodation-only bookings were not.”


He says Abta will look at creating new tools to help members know where they stand. “It sounds brutal, but we’d remind everyone not to assume that just because someone’s got the Abta badge, everything they sell is protected.”

'If we don’t manage climate expectations, people could become anti-travel'

Throughout our hour-long chat, I detect confidence from Tanzer. “Our message to members is our research continues to suggest holidays are an important part of people’s lives,” he says. “At the same time, people are very value conscious – that doesn’t mean they want cheap, it just means they want absolute value.”


As we wind up, we touch on the other key issue of the moment – sustainability. “We’ve been tested on the financial protection side of things this year, and we’ve come through that,” says Tanzer. “I think we’re now going to be tested on the sustainability piece.


“Extinction Rebellion has focused minds on the carbon challenge, while the government has set carbon neutral targets for 2050. It’s not just aviation; cruise, hotels and supply chains are all part of the equation. If we don’t manage expectations, people could become anti-travel.”


Tanzer insists the sector has good stories to tell about efforts to mitigate its environmental and social footprint, such as the work of Abta’s Travelife initiative. “But we need to do more,” he admits.


Tanzer believes the sector can innovate and reduce its carbon footprint, and stresses offsetting should only be used as a last resort, adding: “I think we can get to a position where people feel confident they can travel without it costing the Earth.”

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