Tui’s commercial director has reassured agents the operator “has a plan in place” should government advice change while a customer is in-destination, as he predicts “more normal” capacity for summer 2021.
Speaking during TTG’s Restart Travel: Holidays are go! seminar yesterday (8 July), Richard Sofer, Tui UK & Ireland’s commercial and business development director, listed the steps that had been taken in-resort (including during excursions and at kids clubs) and onboard to ensure customers have an “enjoyable holiday” amid new hygiene and social distancing measures.
The operator will offer eight destinations across Spain and Greece starting tomorrow (11 July), from Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham.
Asked by TTG editor Sophie Griffiths what would happen if there was a coronavirus “flare up” in-resort, Sofer reassured delegates: “In the most extreme example where let’s say a destination is closed down, then we would repatriate all our guests from that destination. If it was an Isolated incident – those customers would probably be asked by the hotel to quarantine within the hotel room.
“We have policies and procedures in place… whether it’s one case or a whole destination [entering] into lockdown, we know what the steps would be that we would follow.”
Sofer explained that Tui would not, for the time being, be offering any destination insisting on 100% testing of all customers, with the risk of them then being quarantined.
“We’re going to stand by the promises made to our customers, so if something changes and a destination moves into a situation where customers have to quarantine then we’ll need to move customers to a different destination. It means that every day it’s a conversation, but it’s getting more stable.”
Sofer said Tui’s flying capacity for the summer was at about 40-45%, but some hotels would have much higher occupancy.
“We’ve been taking bookings for summer 2020 every day throughout the crisis,” he said.
“In the last couple of weeks as there have been more positive signs and as we’ve come out and talked about our restart programme we have seen our bookings really increase.
“They jumped 3-4 times what they had been week-on-week. The volumes are still lower on last year but they’ve dramatically increased.
“We’re really comfortable that with the bookings we’re seeing come through, we’re going to end up pretty much on full planes [for the restart].
Sofer predicted a later booking curve, too.
“At the moment I’m really pleased with the booking volumes we’re seeing for summer 2020, and summer 2021 bookings are fantastic.
“While there will be a ramp up I do expect for summer 2021 to be getting back to some more normal levels of volume.”
Sofer said Spain and Greece were proving “really popular”, with summer 2020 customers booking slightly longer holidays.
He added that for those destinations no longer available with Tui for some time, such as Florida, the operator had seen an “encouraging rebooking rate” for next year, helped by the reopening of Tui’s stores where customers can be reassured and advised by agents.
Elsewhere, Sofer revealed Tui had had to cancel 1.5 million customers’ holidays as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
He said despite “not always performing as well as we’d have wanted to” earlier on in the refunds crisis, Tui had corrected its challenges and was now “up to date with the vast majority of refunds”.
“We’ve had to rebuild systems and processes in the meantime,” he said. “We introduced a web forum that expedited the process.”
Sofer further revealed a “really good rebook rate” for refund credit notes, of 40%.
*TTG’s news editor Jennifer Morris has joined a Tui trip to Ibiza this weekend. Follow the latest photos, videos and updates on Twitter @JMorrisTTG and here on the TTG Media website