TUI: People are realising the Airbnb model isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Having finally completed the transition from Thomson to TUI, the travel brand insists package holidays still have a strong future.

Although the disruption of Airbnb has undoubtedly impacted the travel sector, TUI’s UK marketing director Jeremy Ellis believes a backlash is starting to form against do-it-yourself holidays.

“People are starting to realise doing it yourself isn’t all it is cracked up to be,” he tells Marketing Week. “When you go down that route there’s too much choice and too many complications. If things go wrong there’s a lot more risks attached than if you were to book traditionally.

“We curate unique holiday experiences and check for health and safety because people don’t have the time to trawl through page after page. A lot of time-poor people are realising a package holiday is the most convenient way to start a holiday,” he adds.

Indeed, Ellis says the traditional package holiday market is actually in growth again.  

The business has just completed its rebrand from Thomson to TUI in the UK, which has been part of a two-year process.

Today (18 October) TUI launched a marketing campaign to reinforce the new branding, which is centred around the slogan ‘We cross the Ts, dot the Is and put U in the middle’. It follows a 20-second TV ad in September, which showed a man diving into a pool while a strapline flashed up saying: “Thomson is changing to TUI”.

According to YouGov BrandIndex, TUI’s ad awareness score has risen from two to 25 since the TV advert’s release on the 20 September. Its buzz score, which measures the positive things people have heard about a brand, has also risen – up from one to seven points over the same period.

Ellis insists this data proves the switch has been a smooth one. “The TUI brand gives us the opportunity to modernise people’s perceptions of the brand. Most importantly, the TUI brand has more resonance with more consumers than Thomson does.

“I am a ‘Thomsononite’ – I did my training there in 1991. But all our customer research points to one conclusion: this is the right move. The transition has been smooth and we’re now better prepared to be an iconic global brand.”

If things go wrong [with a do-it-yourself holiday] there’s a lot more risks attached than if you were to book traditionally.

Around 60% of TUI’s bookings now come from online and Ellis believes the TUI branding can also help it to become more synonymous with a multichannel future than perhaps Thomson, which was more connected with high street travel agents. But that isn’t to say high street travel agents aren’t a focus for the brand. Ellis says there will be a big push to add more video and virtual reality options into branches over the coming years.

He concludes: “Where we add video to the booking experience, people are three to four times more likely to complete a booking. And our digital stores have three times as much footfall. The key will be to bridge content and video to help people experience a holiday before they book. You can test drive a car, but you can’t test a holiday before purchasing. We want to change that.”

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