The aftermath of Thomas Cook’s failure is a “good time” to reflect on its impact on Tui Group and the wider industry, the boss of Tui UK has said.
Speaking at the operator’s launch of its Tui Tours programme in London on Wednesday (25 September), where he paid tribute to its long-standing rival, UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham said: “I think at the moment it’s a good time to take stock. [At Tui] we haven’t really had a chance to properly reflect. Businesses adapt and evolve, and this is a seismic change in our industry. It’ll take a bit of time to understand what the ramifications are.”
Flintham described how the mood at Tui is of sadness but that everyone wants to help. He said: “We’ve done repatriation flights, we’ve had shop staff taking cakes to the Thomas Cook stores, that kind of thing. But it’s just heartbreaking.”
“We’ve had loads of interest in our jobs fair. We are a big employer; we have vacancies that come up all the time. But I think the whole travel industry is genuinely trying to find the best people, which is really touching,” he told TTG.
Speaking of his own near move to Cook around 18 months ago, he said: “I know I could have been in that position as much as I’m in this position, but for whatever reason I didn’t end up going. I didn’t go because I thought something like the failure was going to happen. I just thought the opportunity with Tui was a better one. The failure is no reflection at all on the [Cook] staff – they’re all professionals. So is having a great leadership team a guarantee you’re going to be successful? Not in all circumstances.”
Flintham stressed how Tui intends to “get through the initial impact” on customers affected before deciding how it would fill the gap that Cook has left.
“We competed with their business on a daily basis, so we know exactly where they were and exactly what they were doing, so like any evolution we will work through whatever we think [is best],” he told TTG.
“We want our business to be successful, so at the end of the day the reason we’ve had this long rivalry is because we’d both been doing our own thing to try to succeed. That won’t change. So we will take a bit of time before we say what we’re going to do.”
Touching on its new Tui Tours range and its river cruises arm, which will launch in spring 2020, Flintham said: “There are a lot of moving parts in the travel industry. A few years ago you would never have expected us to be doing tours. We’ve just launched river cruises – that would have been a specialist product that somebody like ourselves wouldn’t be doing [back then]. You’ve also got [companies] like Jet2holidays… then you’ve got easyJet Holidays about to launch. There are all these moving parts.
“I think one thing we do know is that, economic circumstances aside, people will still want to go on holiday and people still love holidays. None of those things have changed. [Travel] is a very dynamic industry that will definitely evolve, and our job is to make sure that we are still a market leader in a great market and in a great industry.”