Thomson’s rebrand must not fail, insists Tui UK boss Longman

Tui’s UK boss said “failure is not an option” when Thomson is rebranded next year.

Speaking at the Institute of Travel & Tourism Conference in Tel Aviv, UK & Ireland managing director Nick Longman insisted there would be no U-turn once the business ditches its 50-year-old Thomson brand in the UK.

Claiming “tens of millions” was being invested in the move, he said: “Failure is not an option.

“Once we start the process we will keep going. Now the decision is made it’s all about execution.”

He said the UK division’s profit contribution to the overall group would rise following the sale of its Specialist Group, so a successful rebrand was “vital”.

Longman added that the Tui name would help change perceptions of what the group offers, appeal to new markets and enable a move into sectors such as city breaks, tailor-made tours and multi-centre trips.

And, in a sideswipe at Thomas Cook, he said: “It’s very difficult to change people’s perceptions of a brand that’s 50 years old; arguably even harder if you are 175 years old.

“Tui is perceived as a newer, younger brand, and we can strengthen the brand to enable us to move into these new areas.”

But despite his bullish stance on the transition to Tui, Longman conceded that all-inclusive brand First Choice and activity brand Crystal could act as “natural hedges” for the business in the event of the rebrand backfiring.

Longman acknowledged that the axing of the Thomson name would be emotional for many staff.

But he said members of the group had experienced similar upheaval in the past, such as when the Bakers Dolphin brand was jettisoned in favour of First Choice, and he promised Tui would support its employees through the process.

“It’s a hugely emotional thing,” he said. “We will hold staff events and one-to-one sessions to talk about the benefits. I do not underestimate the importance of engaging with our staff.”

Longman said that between 2010 and 2015 passenger numbers for Thomson’s UK & Ireland mainstream business had remained flat at about 5.5 million, although financial performance had improved due to a switch away from lower-margin products such as flight-only.

But he said: “My role is about how we grow that business. Heritage is a great thing. We want to continue with that but legacy can also be a disadvantage.”

Longman suggested he would increase sales by introducing a “third way” [type of holiday] between the rigid traditional package and the infinite choice associated with dynamic packaging.

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