TUI Germany is in good health compared to "ill" former rival Thomas Cook, and is broadening its product portfolio for summer 2020 with more online flight and hotel offers, expansion of TUI Blue hotels and more destination tours and activities.
In contrast to the insolvent British group, the German tour operator market leader is financially strong and is pressing ahead with growth plans for next year, TUI Germany chief Marek Andryszak made clear at the summer 2020 programme presentation in Hamburg on Wednesday.
Thomas Cook "was ill for five or six years and there wasn't a recovery in all this time. When you look at us over the same period, then you see that we are extremely healthy," he commented. The tour operator business contributes only a small part of TUI Group's total profits while most come from cruises, hotels and destinations, he pointed out.
Speaking more generally, Andryszak admitted the term "package holiday" might be 'old-fashioned' but he underlined: "The word isn't sexy and perhaps we should think about the term. But the product is very much alive." However, it might be necessary "to do something legally" in terms of insolvency insurance to make the advantages of package holidays clear to customers, he added.
The German market leader is increasing the number of individual travel products, such as flights, accommodation, tours and car rentals, on its TUI.com portal as "these are booked online more frequently than other travel forms," such as package holidays.
"TUI.com is already the most-visited tour operator portal in the German market. The next step, to develop it into a relevant flight and hotel portal, is absolutely logical," Andryszak explained. The TUIfly.com website will be integrated into TUI.com next year and all other 'relevant' airlines will also be bookable through the portal, according to the company.
The accommodation section will include hotels, holiday homes, hostels, apartments and chalets, with capacity provided not only through bedbanks but also hotel chains. The first partner is Marriott. "This gives us access to 4,500 hotels that were mostly not bookable through us so far, and also access to certain types of rates for online sales," explained tourism chief Stefan Baumert.
In addition, TUI.com will offer 'flex rates' that can be cancelled up to 18:00 on the day of arrival, in the style of Booking.com, for an initial three cities from November 7 onwards. There will also be non-cancellable rates that are likely to be 6-8% cheaper, according to Baumert. Hotel-only bookings currently only represent one third the volume of package holiday bookings but could increase to the same level in the medium term, Andryszak believes.
In addition, the TUI Blue brand will expand to 100 properties next year, mostly through the integration and re-branding of Sensimar and Family Life properties. In addition, there will be 11 new openings, including the third Robinson club on Crete. In parallel, Best Family hotels will be re-branded to TUI Kids Clubs and expand to 40 locations thanks to five openings next year.
In terms of TUI's package holiday prices next summer, Majorca will be cheaper, other Spanish destinations, Greece and Italy will be stable, and there will be slight increases for Turkey, Egypt, the USA and Thailand.
At the same time, TUI will add 20,000 more different 'destination experiences', such as tours, excursions, activities and event tickets, next summer to continue building up this new business area. Its sales of such products nearly doubled to 2.3 million in the third quarter of this year.
TUI Germany did not disclose any specific sales figures for this year (apart from a 3% rise for Greece) but said it had closed the summer 2019 season with higher sales than last year's record level. It currently has strong winter bookings for various long-haul destinations along with the Canaries, the Cape Verde islands and Morocco.