Jet2holidays boss Steve Heapy has reiterated the tour operator’s support for the trade, pledging there is “no cap” on agent business.
The proportion of sales of Jet2holidays made by its independent travel agent partners increased during the pandemic to 31% this year. Trade sales had fallen from 32% to 25% in 2018 after Thomas Cook and Tui stopped selling the operator, but grew from 24% to 27% in 2019.
Speaking at the tour operator’s annual VIP 2021 conference held at its home city of Leeds, Yorkshire, Heapy said: “We have no upper limit on travel agent business or any lower limit on direct [sales]. We don’t want to penalise agent business; we want to get as much business as we can.”
He stressed there was no desire to cut out agents in the distribution chain, adding: “I would urge you all to sell more. We want to grow. We want to be the biggest and the best.”
Heapy, who admitted the industry as a whole faced a “tough couple of years”, added: “Agents are as important as they have ever been to us.”
He said: “We are not out of the woods yet. We have seen the market get stronger but it’s got weaker in the last seven to ten days because of the talk of riots in Europe and new [Covid] strains. It’s not prices that will decide whether people book, it’s consumer confidence.”
But he said: “There is no need for nervousness, particularly as we will refund [if holidays cannot go ahead].”
Heapy added that the operator’s policy to refund customers straight away during the pandemic had stood it in good stead and resulted in clients returning to book with the company.
“We have always said we will treat customers the way we would like to be treated. We are now seeing customers coming back to us,” he said.
He admitted the company, like others, faced a challenge initially to keep up with the level of calls from worried customers. At one point the operator’s call centre was receiving 9,000 calls a day, double the amount it would usually take.
“We did have problems and we didn’t get it all right but we did everything we could,” said Heapy, but he stressed: “We didn’t cut back our services. I am proud of the way we dealt with customers and our travel agent partners.”