Clare Tobin has been promoted to chief executive officer of Greece, Cyprus and islands specialist Olympic Holidays just six months after joining the company.
Tobin, who was brought in initially as chief operating officer, takes over from George Michalias, who assumes the new role of chairman.
She was always destined for the top job, with Michalias saying: “When we welcomed Clare into the business, we started putting plans in place for her to take over at the helm of the business.
“Her infectious energy, dynamism, product and commercial acumen, together with her tour operating experience, make her a natural fit for the chief executive role.”
Tobin made an immediate impression, with new destinations added for next year, including Madeira, La Palma and Cape Verde; sales for 2018 up year-on-year; and a host of new developments for next year planned.
She attributes Olympic’s good trading position to several factors.
Firstly, she believes the operator’s price parity policy is winning big favour with the trade, which continues to account for about half the company’s total sales.
Tobin, who spent 17 years at Tui where she ovesaw the group’s Specialist Holidays Division, said continuing to listen to and invest in agents will be a key part of the strategy going forward.
“We will put increased emphasis on independents and multiples. We are going to put more sales staff on the road, we will be making more frequent agency visits, we’ll offer more training and more marketing materials that can be far more bespoke to each agent, we’re launching a new agent retention programme, which will include a raft of trade incentives, and we are going to significantly increase the number of fam trips we run, especially those of island-hopping holidays, which are really popular currently,” she said.
“There is a real desire from the trade to understand some of the smaller islands that the larger operators don’t feature. We’ve set up some core island hopping itineraries to build up agents’ confidence, then once their happy selling those, we can build bespoke island hopping itineraries.”
“We can see from our research that people don’t just want to lie on the same beach anymore. People – and families – want to be moving around and experiencing different things. People want to explore places – and want their children to as well,” said Tobin.
She added: “My aim is for Olympic to be the equivalent of the black cab in London. The idea that once you’ve been somewhere with ‘the Knowledge’, you couldn’t go and buy a holiday anywhere else.”
Olympic, which is licensed to carry about 250,000 passengers a year, is massively improving its website functionality, in collaboration with agents, to give them the tools they need to make more sales.
The new platform, which will go live on November 1, replicates the ease of Viewdata for booking, but with the addition of all the deals available, plus the incentives in place at any given time so agents can earn points towards their own holidays. The new site is also more intuitive, designed to make it easier for agents to search by lifestyle and family type.
Olympic has also brought in Amadeus to offer scheduled flights for next year, which Tobin claims will increase flexibility and multi-centre bookings, as well as the availability of regional departures.
“A lot of our customers take maybe three holidays a year with us. Some of these are short breaks – people want flexibility. They enjoy our unique product but it’s about availability, choice of airport and duration. We are increasing our overall capacity by offering different types of packages and durations.
Agents will also be able to create bespoke marketing materials that they can then download themselves to use in their websites or mailings/e-shots to customers.
Another key pillar to Tobin’s plan, is to increase Olympic’s appeal to families.
“Families are an area that we’re currently still under-represented so we’re adding more product appealing to families all the time. Since we’ve increased our family programme by 20%, our business is up 60% – that’s just in four months.
Olympic has also adjusted its flying programme for 2018 to families with fewer night flights.
“Thanks to the business expanding its regional departures and scheduled airline options, there is more flexibility from the UK airports to more resorts, without the need to fly at anti-social times,” said Tobin.
She added that the operator was putting a particular focus on ‘Gold’ properties – Olympic’s luxury programme – which she sees appealing to slightly older professionals with families, and she said she was looking for agents’ sales of Gold properties to increase by 15% in 2018.
Tobin added that she thought customer retention would double by 2019 by putting all her plans into place.
“At the moment, the business is about the right size. We just need to increase the yields and the customer retention – and we will,” she said.
Tobin finished: “I’m honoured to take over from George as chief executive of Olympic Holidays. Celebrating its 50th birthday this year, this is a company with a fantastic heritage and a bright future. We have many exciting developments in place for 2018 and beyond to ensure Olympic remains at the heart of the UK travel industry.”