Tui’s marketing chief has called on independent travel agents to work with the operator as he outlined plans to overhaul its commercial terms, service standards and relationship with the trade.
Neil Swanson’s plea follows a wholesale change in Tui’s overall approach to sales through third-party agents since it cut base commission to 7% for independents almost 20 years ago.
It comes as Tui prepares for its biggest-ever programme for summer 2024, with 1.1 million extra seats and additional flying from 13 UK airports, bringing the total to more than 10 million seats.
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly editor Lucy Huxley, Tui chief marketing officer Swanson pledged the operator was “in it for the long haul” and aimed to build “long‑term relationships” with independent agents to sell product from across its entire portfolio.
He urged agents to work with the operator, insisting Tui had taken on board agent feedback to review its pricing strategy and commission payments, and to improve trade contact centre services.
Swanson dismissed the post-Covid boom in agent popularity as the catalyst for the shift. He insisted the move was part of a longer-term, “bigger” overall strategy to grow distribution through part of the market Tui was currently “missing out” on and to sit alongside other large trade players.
“We’re missing out on a portion of the market – largely independent agents,” he said.
“We want to put that right. This is about long-term relationships.
“All I am asking is for people to give us a chance. The proof will be in the pudding, but I can promise you we are here to stay.”
Tui’s new trade approach is three-pronged: to expand its trade team from eight to 14 to cover all of the UK to train and support agents; to review trade commercials, including commission structure; and to improve customer service in trade contact centres to the same level given to direct customers.
Swanson said Tui had already begun working more closely with some consortia agents, with trials running since the start of the year.
He would not reveal details of commission payments but said: “We recognise we need new pricing and commission structures in place. It’s got to work for both parties on a commercial basis.
“It’s something we’ve been reviewing, and we’ve done some trials. We’re now ready to start communicating that to agents.”
Agents would need to decide if the new terms “work for them”, he said, conceding some may “never come on board”, but he hoped agents would “give us a go”.
New commercial agreements are due to be in place by the end of October.
In response to agents’ concerns about price parity and disparity in deposit levels, Swanson said low or zero deposits available to Tui’s agents or online would need to be available via third parties too. “That should be addressed, and it will be,” he said.
Regarding support and wait times for agents through contact centres, he said: “We have a programme in place to improve that service.”
Swanson also pledged that Tui would not target agents’ own customers to sell to them direct.