WTM 2019: Iberostar says agents ‘more important than ever’

Iberostar’s global commercial director has said travel agents are “more important than ever” in the wake of the Thomas Cook collapse.

Finn Ackermann acknowledged that the hotel group had lost “a few million” in unpaid bills following Thomas Cook’s failure in September.

But he said the collapse hadn’t made him doubt the role of the travel agents in the sector, and insisted that Iberostar, which boasts 85% trade sales, would not be changing its trade-focused strategy any time soon.

“[The Thomas Cook failure] is not a vote against package holidays, it’s definitely a vote against companies that are not solid. That’s the only learning I get out of that,” he said.

“The trade has a very, very important role, especially in these moments of insecurity or when people need a bit of guidance.

“I strongly believe that travel advisors have a fundamental role in this – it’s more important than ever.”

Ackermann said the hotel group had been working on “diversifying” its product in the last three to four years, adding more hotels in new destinations and investing more than £500 million in refurbishments and upgrades of existing hotels.

Now present in 19 countries, with new openings in Montenegro, Mexico, Rome and Cuba next year, Ackermann praised the trade for helping the company “reposition” into the new model it boasts today.

“We are very clear that who has helped us most in this transformation and transition of the company is the trade,” he said.

“That’s why we have heavily invested in our sales teams in the source markets and in the UK and that’s clearly our strategy.

“Obviously we are working online and working direct which you need to do as a company but at the same time we are very clear that trade for us is key.

“And it’s key because we are a differentiated product, we are not a commodity. You need to explain to the customer what we have to offer and why we charge what we charge and why it’s worth it which is much more difficult in an online environment when all you have is clicks – it’s impossible to get across.”

Ackermann added that Iberostar’s UK market had grown by “two digits” in 2019.

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