Tui’s direct-to-consumer distribution model will only grow as the group emerges from the pandemic, according to its UK boss.
Speaking at the first Tui Talks event for press in London, northern region managing director Andrew Flintham said flexibility would drive how the company prioritises its distribution.
“We have scale in the holiday environment unlike any of our competitors. Our distribution model focuses on a direct Tui-to-customer relationship and that will absolutely only grow,” he said.
“We have strength in our brand but as a trusted and well-known brand, customers want to engage with us one-to-one.
“That’s not to say we won’t work with other third-party suppliers – however with more and more people buying holidays online and the trend for mass personalisation and increased flexibility, the strength of truly owning those customer relationships will only grow.”
He added: “That is where owning the fully controlled customer touch points will really come into their own – especially as consumers move away from the high street and demand a superior customer service online.”
Flintham said Tui “would continue to reshape its retail estate” as it moves to a more digital service for its customers.
“We know face-to-face service is important, but the move to a more digital service is something we believe we’ll see more and more of in the future,” he said.
“Importantly, it’s a customer-pull strategy. We will further develop the digital capabilities, but customers will have the choice. How they choose to interact with us, digitally or face-to-face, will shape our strategy and the pace of any transition.”
He said the group had seen the service needs of its customers change during the pandemic.
“During the last 20 months the world has changed and unsurprisingly the travel landscape with it. Customers now display different behaviours and expectations – even the most confident travellers now require more support, and the least confident customers need more reassurance. And everyone is placing even more importance on their holidays,” he said.
“More and more people are wanting to book online, manage their booking online, or speak with a travel advisor at a time of their choosing, and of course not necessarily in a physical location.
“We started our journey to reshape our retail estate back in 2019 and we believe this trend will only grow.”
Flintham added: “We know seeing or speaking to a real-life human is extremely important – and have absolutely seen the value of this during the last 20 months.”
But he said: “Our Tui advisors are now all about inspiring our customers and supporting them with the logistics of going on holiday and less just about just the physical selling of holidays.”
He said the desire for a more digital service was also being displayed overseas, adding: “If you’re lying on your sunbed with a drink in hand, you’re now far more likely to want to chat via an app than go and find a rep in reception.”