Interview: EasyJet Holidays ‘on track to launch in time for peaks’

Tour operator’s chief executive Garry Wilson talks Lucy Huxley through its strategy

EasyJet Holidays’ is testing its new technology and website ready for launch at the end of December.

Speaking at Abta’s Travel Convention in Tokyo this week, chief executive Garry Wilson said: “The tech was all finalised last week and it’s all flowing through now. It’s in testing and we’re on track to launch in time for the peak sales period. It’s very exciting.”

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The tour operator will be launched with a significant marketing campaign, both above and below the line and including TV ads promoting flexibility.

“Usually flexibility means cost, but we are looking to do it at great value,” said Wilson, who joined from Tui in November 2018.

“We are the second largest airline, with over 100 million seats and over 1,000 flights a day. That scale, and the flexibility that comes with that, coupled with direct relationships with hoteliers, can’t be matched.”

He added that easyJet Holidays was looking to be “the most data-driven experts in the world” in order to give the highest levels of personalisation.

“That’s pretty unique given our scale,” he said. “The opportunity is massive.”

Wilson would not be drawn on the size of the Atol licence easyJet Holidays had applied for, but said: “We want to be a major player. We don’t want to be a niche player. But when we launch, everything will be brand new.”

He said the launch was a five-year plan, adding: “We will launch with nothing and have to start building up the data. So we have to be realistic, but we think we will scale quickly because we won’t have the problems of the legacy brands which are trying to operate off multiple systems and processes and with multiple teams.”

There will be a single log-in system for easyJet and easyJet Holidays customers and revealed the airline’s website had more than 377 million visitors in the last year along with upwards of 322 million app downloads.

“The opportunity to share data between the airline and the operator will be huge,” he explained.

That plan will see easyJet Holidays launch in other European markets in the next couple of years. “We have a European footprint already so it will be much easier to expand internationally than if we were starting from scratch, he said.

Asked if Thomas Cook’s collapse had altered his growth plans for the operator, Wilson said: “The demise of Thomas Cook has given us opportunities short-term to put capacity into certain destinations. But we already had a plan to go to most destinations that Cook was flying, so we will just see if there is demand and put more in. I expect to see demand rising so we will watch it.”

The other opportunity is with hotels. Wilson said he had been approached by many hotels that had lost business from Thomas Cook, asking for easyJet to replace those guests.

“We are entering into relationships with 500 hoteliers already,” he revealed. “But I have received a lot of approaches from hoteliers that were contracted by Cooks, some of which are very attractive, so we will add more. That’s the great beauty of our model. We are not a charter airline. With 100 million seats there is no limit. If the demand is there, we will meet it.”

Wilson said easyJet would not be looking for exclusivity on any properties as it believes its low-overheads model (which carries out many traditionally manual process digitally), means its holidays would be the best value and therefore selected ahead of those of competitors’ to the same hotels.

Asked why he was so confident in his in-house easyJet Holidays working when the outsourced operator didn’t reach its potential, Wilson said: “It was a fully-outsourced ancillary business before that was looked after by just one person. It had very little focus on it, yet it still did half a million passengers, which isn’t bad.

“But this time we are totally focused on being a data-driven business that is a modern and relevant player where we can focus on the user experience, and on the customer via personalisation and automation, with a very clean look and feel that is easy to navigate.”

Wilson reiterated that he “fully intends to work with the trade” and revealed easyJet Holidays would be “somewhere in between” Tui’s model of not working with many third-party agents and Jet2holidays’ courting the independent trade.

“But I will not be employing a massive sales team,” he added. “Our work with agents needs to be aligned to our business model and vision which is to be a simple, straightforward, transparent, digital business,” he said, so agents will make bookings through a trade portal.

“We recognise we need agents’ help, so we are in the process of liaising the consortia and agency groups now about what they want, and working out a commission structure,” he said.

“We are also holding a number of trade days around the country and have employed ex-TTNG marketing chief Si Morris-Green to help map out the trade strategy.”

Wilson said a new entrant to the market could not have come at a better time.

“There’s still a perception with some consumers and the industry that the package holiday is outdated,” he said. “But our brand and approach is new and modern and so is just what is needed right now.”

MoreEasyJet Holidays team dubbed ‘Tui mark II’

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