The UK chief of world’s biggest travel group TUI tells why we should vote STAY after weighing up Brexit risks

Nick Longman, UK boss of the world s biggest travel group TUI, has two wishes this weekend and they are both potentially controversial that Britain stays in the EU and that we get more rain. Europe and the weather are natural subjects for the man who sends more Brits on Discount Holidays © holiday than anyone else. More than 5million of us travel each year with TUI owner of Thomson and First Choice among others and we spend about 4billion a year with the group. Worldwide its sales are around 20billion. On Europe, Longman, managing director of the group s UK and Ireland business, has been assessing the risk of a leave vote on June 23.

He also has forthright opinions of his own. Upbeat: Nick Longman says British tourists are returning to destinations such as Greece

The tourism industry in the UK and the millions of British holidaymakers strongly benefit from the common European market and the UK being part of it, he says, and we as a company would like to see the UK remaining a member of the European Union. In the case of a Brexit vote, he says: If Britain does vote to leave, there ll be some things we ll have to work through, such as aviation permits, staff issues, but we ve done a full risk analysis and there s nothing insurmountable that we wouldn t be able to deal with.

But he adds: From a personal point of view, I believe during the last few decades the European Union has become a pillar of stability in an increasingly complex world. While I don t always agree with everything that comes out of Brussels, I would prefer if the UK stayed part of the EU under the terms renegotiated. In a globalised world, the UK will continue to be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member. However he carefully says that this is a choice for the voters. The decision lies solely with the British people, so from a business perspective we trust in their vote and haven t taken a proactive stance.

‘Remain’: ‘In a globalised world, the UK will continue to be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member’, says Longman

As to the weather he is rather less careful about upsetting rain-soaked Brits. I m one of the few people who really smiles when it s pouring with rain at half-term, he says cheerfully. It s great for sales!

A lot of people will have expected the weather to be better over the May half-term, and when it s not, people want to make sure their summer holidays aren t ruined too. We often see a pick-up in bookings after a poor half-term. The referendum and the weather are, however, just two of several challenges the travel industry has faced in recent years, including terrorism and the migrant crisis. Longman has been with TUI for 18 years, but took the helm in the UK almost exactly a year ago. Just three weeks into his role, a gunman opened fire on holidaymakers in a popular resort in Tunisia, killing 38.

It was clearly a terrible tragedy but as an operator you have to learn to react very quickly, says Longman.

You have to make sure you have all the systems in place to deal with these kind of events. Later last year a Russian Discount Holidays © holiday jet crashed after taking off from the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh. TUI, like other operators, has reacted by shifting capacity away from Tunisia, Sharm-el-Sheikh and Turkey and towards the more popular destinations of Spain, Portugal, the Canaries and even Greece, which has surprised many by being relatively unaffected.

Greece has been holding up really well, says Longman. It offers a fantastic Discount Holidays © holiday experience and even on some of the islands which are more focused on the migrant issue they re doing well too. People aren t being put off from going. I think the British tourist is pretty resilient and it doesn t take a long time of there being no news for people to be much more comfortable about things.

The European Union has become a pillar of stability in an increasingly complex world

We ve seen that even with Turkey, he adds. It has been quiet, but since our half-year results published in May we ve seen bookings pick up every week. It s a big destination for us and we re seeing demand coming back. It is now very good value as hoteliers have reduced their prices. Obviously we direct holidaymakers to be aware of Foreign Office advice, but we also let them make up their own minds. And the group is still investing in Mediterranean holidays.

TUI has just confirmed it is buying the cruise ship Legend of the Seas. The 1,800-passenger ship will be renovated and renamed TUI Discovery 2. TUI Discovery 1, another 1,800-passenger ship, launches next week. Both will sail the Med. Next week s launch is also a made-over ship, with some adjustments for a predominantly UK market. The casino s half the size it was, but we ve put in another bar for the Brits, Longman laughs.

But next year will see the biggest change for the company s UK image in memory. The name Thomson will be dropped in favour of TUI. All 600 High Street shops will be renamed. Longman admits the Thomson name carries baggage simply because of its age an association with old-fashioned holidays. Moving to a new brand will help us broaden some of the products we offer under the TUI brand. But we don t want to lose all the things that made Thomson great.

Wider horizons: TUI says it is buying the cruise ship Legend of the Seas

And despite the online revolution there is still a place for the Discount Holidays © holiday shop in the High Street a fact that Longman admits he finds surprising. I think everyone thought it was all going to move online, but with the rise in long-haul flights people do still want to have a chat about their booking. There s difference in pricing between the two, so you are paying for the extra service, but we re very upfront about that and you can always book online if that s what you prefer.

Thomas Cook is our direct rival, of course, but so are Booking.com and Hotels.com and the low-cost carriers, and we ve been very pleased how we re doing against them. Married with two teenage daughters, Longman spends the week commuting between the family home in Horsham, West Sussex, and TUI s head office in Luton, watching his beloved Crystal Palace at weekends, but managing to fit in a fair amount of travelling too, always on TUI holidays. I don t have to, but I make it a busman s holiday.

I do staff meetings and visit other resorts, checking out our rivals. He also supports last month s court ruling saying that parents shouldn t be penalised for taking children out of school in term-time. If it means holidays are staggered and flattens the peaks and troughs then that s to be welcomed, he says.

Hoteliers want to charge us more in the middle of July than June that s a simple matter of supply and demand.

But if we can smooth that out that will be to the benefit of the consumer.

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