The High Street might be changing but it’s not going to go away! "Brands need to start aligning their high street presence with what they can do online in order to thrive,” explained TUI UK & Ireland marketing director Jeremy Ellis in a recent discussion with The Drum on how traditional holiday companies remain relevant in today’s DIY online market.
Operating in over 180 countries with more than 30 million customers in 31 key markets worldwide TUI is one of the world’s leading leisure travel companies.In the UK alone TUI Thomson brand takes five and a half million people abroad each year. According to Ellis “what Thomson is about that no other holiday company is, is holiday design,” a brand proposition established over the last couple of years which aims to “design brand experiences around particular kinds of customers through differentiated products.”
Ellis commented: “Our main point of difference is we have a long standing relationship with some of the best suppliers in the world, and what our legacy allows us to do is work with the best hoteliers to offer holidays that you just cannot buy anywhere else. Virtually the whole Thomson portfolio of hotels is exclusive to use, so you won’t find them through any other travel company or by yourself on the internet. We want to be seen as more than a distributor by creating the very best holidays which are only available through us.”
In order to address the changing holiday market where more and more consumers have turned to the internet to book their own flights and accommodation Thomson has tried to attract a more affluent audience with its flagship Sensatori five star luxury resorts, the newest of which is opening in Turkey next month. To cement Thomson’s brand proposition of ‘holiday design’ the tour operator has partnered with celebrated milliner Philip Treacy to celebrate the opening of the Turkish Sensatori resort with Treacy designing a range of women’s and children’s sunhats as well as turning his hand to interior design, creating the resort’s Butterfly Bar.
Of the collaboration, Ellis said: “We wanted to use someone as iconic as Philip to reach out to a broader more affluent audience…another advantage of working with someone like Philip is traditionally the person who decides where the family is going on holiday is the woman, so someone like Philip helped us reach that female audience that perhaps we wouldn’t have penetrated before through more traditional marketing experiences.
“[The partnership] was about taking our brand proposition one step further by tying it in with great British designers who are very aspirational, creating something that is very unique that you cannot get elsewhere. For us linking with someone like Philip only helps to strengthen the whole brand proposition.”
Away from the high end market Ellis explained that Thomson remains to cater for all markets and budgets with its range of differentiated products that also includes commodity brand Skytours, offering “value holidays but with the backing of the Thomson brand, offering holidaymakers a support network which you don’t get trying to do it yourself cheaply, which to be honest these days is becoming more and more difficult to do.”
Despite the economy claiming similar operators such as Goldtrail and Flyglobespan Ellis is confident that Thomson has found its niche: “what we’ve developed over the last couple of years is an essence of quality time and hopefully that has been reflected in the recent advertising campaigns…we’re confident with the quality of our product and basing our brand strategy around differentiation is where we’re managing to deliver really good results”.
With Thomson’s latest financial results showing a 15 per cent increase in holiday bookings in the UK and online sales accounting for 40 per cent of all sales Thomson’s bold choice of targeting the luxury market during an economic downturn appears to be paying off.