Package holidays should become much more personalised in future to offer customers a better experience, Thomas Cook Germany chief Stefanie Berk told fvw in an interview.
Traditional ‘package holidays’ no longer exist, according to the experienced tourism manager. “The words don’t even describe the product any more. No one wants to be part of a package. Instead, it’s about an individual kind of holiday,” she insisted.
Tour operator holidays have already been made much more flexible in the last few years through measures such as different lengths of holidays, ‘open-jaw’ flights with different arrival and return departure airports, and more choice of hotel rooms, said Berk, who is responsible for Thomas Cook’s tour operator activities in Germany and Central Europe.
The second stage of this modernisation process is the current phase of ‘individualising’ package holidays. “We offer various services; for example, customers can select their preferred hotel room or reserve a sunbed in advance,” she said. But Berk is already looking ahead to a third phase, when package holidays could become more personalised.
At present, customers cannot easily judge the real value of a tour operator holiday, she claimed. “Many (packages) include services that customers cannot evaluate at first glance, such as seat reservations, train travel, in-flight catering or better cancellation conditions,” she explained. Such added-value elements pushed up the price of a holiday in comparison with competitors, leaving cheaper offers ranked first in travel agency booking systems “regardless of what the package actually contains”.
In future, packages, containing elements such as seat reservations, train travel to the departure airport and in-flight catering, could be ‘unbundled’ to create a ‘basic’ offer, Berk proposed. Such a ‘basic’ holiday package would enable a better comparison of similar offers from different tour operators in terms of price and content.
Customers could then be offered this ‘basic’ holiday package and a choice of extra options, such as greater luggage allowances, an individual airport transfer or additional services in the hotel. This would provide customers with a much more personalised holiday to match their needs and wishes.
However, this would require closer cooperation between tour operators and travel agents. “In future, we only want to offer customers what is really relevant for them. But to do this we have to enrich the booking systems with CRM data,” she pointed out. Travel agents would then be able to use customer data for higher quality advice and consultation.
The overall holiday package, combining the standardised basic offer with personal extras, would enable the tour operator to generate higher prices and travel agencies to earn higher commissions as a result.