The travel industry must “be careful not to alienate” mass-market customers when evolving destinations to be more sustainable, says the boss of Jet2holidays.
Steve Heapy was asked about sustainability when speaking at a virtual Majorca Tourism event yesterday.
He noted redevelopments in the south of Majorca, around Magaluf, when he said: “I support that, and if we can change the nature of tourism that’s fine, but we have to be careful not to alienate the hundreds of thousands of customers that currently go to these resorts.
“It has to be an evolution, not a revolution, otherwise we will all have big holes in our budgets, big drops in our occupancies and load factors.
“Sustainability plays into the redevelopment. It has to be done in a responsible manner. People will go where they want to go for the product they want. We have to work together very closely to make sure this is done properly.”
Heapy also hit out at rival firms for not paying refunds promptly and delaying payments to hoteliers.
“We need to make sure we operate very much as a community,” he said. “Some companies, in the UK in particular, have not been refunding customers when holidays have been cancelled, and this is giving the industry a very bad image, which is affecting the future of the industry and that isn’t a very sustainable way to continue.”
On hotel payments, he added: “I won’t name names, but some multi-national vertically-integrated tour operators are not paying their hotel partners until next year. That’s not sustainable. We need to work as a global community to get travel back on its feet.”
Heapy also noted that governments had asked airlines to improve their environmental sustainability as part of relief packages.
He said that he was “very much for” reducing Jet2’s carbon footprint but said doing so was not a priority in the current market.
“In the European airline community we are spending more and more on environmental issues,” he said, but stressed “finances are under strain” and “balance sheets are shot to pieces” at a time when “we are asked to spend an enormous amount of money” [on environmental improvements].
Noting that “some companies won’t make it” through the “massive pressure” Covid-19 has put them under, he added: “There is a trend where the environmental agenda is being pushed very, very hard at a time when airlines, tour operators and hotels have very, very challenging financial situations and I think governments have to be aware of that. I would suggest we repair our finances and balances [first] then get onto environmental issues.”
Ian Livesey, head of Balearic Islands at Tui, said: “We would all agree that people want to travel. After the pandemic, holidays are going to carry on.
“Tourism is going to come back, probably in a different way, but we can’t forget what we have done [in terms of investment in sustainable tourism]”.