Tui’s UK and Ireland managing director has hinted at a shift towards homeworking for some retail staff after the operator “quickly adapted” during the coronavirus crisis.
About 100 of the travel giant’s shops had reopened as of Monday –mainly the larger ones due to the ability to socially distance in them.
Speaking during a Tui press trip to Ibiza this weekend, Andrew Flintham said the company had had to quickly update its systems to enable retail staff to work from home during the crisis. At one point there were 1,000 retail staff working in this way, with 750 continuing to do so.
“We’ve got a set of stores open and we’ll slowly bring them back through the coming weeks and months,” he said.
“Our contact centre are now at home, and at one point we had 1,000 retail staff working from home.
“Previously all our retail systems only really worked in a retail shop. One of the challenges has been enabling them to work.
“What we’ve achieved through the pandemic is a multi-capability throughout our business and that does give us a huge amount of flexibility.
“We know our retail teams are amazing at giving customer service.
“The other thing we’ve learned is we thought we’d be able to get older people to use self-service, but they actually haven’t wanted to.
“Those customers are never going to book with an OTA. We have relearnt again that that has been a really important customer behaviour.
“We’ve got people who have been delivering that (customer) service remotely without a physical shop. I think there are a lot of ways we could use those skills.”
Flintham said Tui’s stores had had a “mix” of customers, from those looking for reassurance to those wanting to book. One of the larger stores, Dunstable, saw 50 customers through the door, and Tui has created tech which enables retail staff to deal with online bookings.
Asked about Tui Group’s recently announced 30% cost-cutting measures, Flintham admitted this would affect UK staff.
“Clearly we don’t think the business is going to return to its immediate levels,” he said. “Clearly as a business we had to do something to rebase our costs.
“The UK will part of that and we’re working though that.”
But he added it may be the case that a large proportion of any affected roles are seasonal ones which aren’t taken on.