1. How has the last few months been for your business?
Its hard to describe the seismic impact of Covid on travel and tourism globally and we haven’t been immune to that. Our strategy at Tour Partner Group, since its creation in late 2017, was to build a European DMC business that was sufficiently diversified across its destination mix, product offering and customer base to weather the kind of disruption in our sector that we have seen all too regularly over the last few years. We had made great progress in achieving that strategic goal and were looking to our best financial performance ever in 2020, but nothing we could have done would have sufficiently prepared us for this.
2. What actions have you had to take?
Our plan included a number of cost saving measures which regrettably, as with so many other businesses, has led to us having to downsize the business, impacting a number of our colleagues across the Group.
3. What support have you had?
We were quick off the mark in terms of forecasting the impact on our performance and as such were able to have early conversations with both our banking partners and shareholders. I have been deeply encouraged by the support collectively they have shown us and their commitment to supporting the business through this. That support only came as a result of their confidence in the business, based on a proven track record of performance, good forward growth indicators and our clear plan to address the immediate impact of what we were seeing.
4. How do you see things moving forward?
Right now the picture remains incredibly unclear in the short term. But what we have seen is some confidence in future travel and next year could be really positive, primarily due to the numbers who have postponed and rebooked already. So much of that will depend on external factors but if, and it’s a big if, the risks diminish then we should see the recovery that we all hope for.
5. How is confidence to travel now?
The best news we have had for weeks has been the return of Group Travel in both the UK and the Nordics and we welcomed our first Groups in August since March. The collective effort to make that happen from our customers, our suppliers and our amazing team has been admirable and I am grateful too to those customers of our clients who decided to travel. I am sure their experience will encourage others to do the same and we are going the extra mile to ensure that happens. The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine allows us to now look forward once again and feel confident about the future of travel.
6. What are your biggest challenges?
To misquote, the biggest challenge right now is planning for the ‘known unknowns’, I have no time at all to worry about the ‘unknown unknowns’! All the assumptions and plans we make are based on conservative revenue models that, only in the passage of time, will prove to be correct or not. We have been encouraged by the initial support shown by various governments in the jurisdictions we operate but they are temporary only and don’t currently extend all the time we have disruption to travel.
We must have sector specific support whilst governments determine nationally their individual approach to restrictions, in some cases with minimal notice. That individual country approach to quarantine, the fast changing nature of the advice, or in some cases lack of it, alongside media sensationalism, all have an adverse effect on consumer confidence and willingness to travel. I absolutely understand and support the need to put public health first, but the commercial impact on the travel industry due to events outside our control, need sector recognition, primarily in the form of financial support.
7. What does the future look like for Tour Partner Group?
The markets we operate in are extremely fragmented with multiple players all facing their own challenges and financial pressure. For Tour Partner Group, the strength of the Group comes from just that, being part of a diverse team with huge amounts of talent and knowledge, partnering with a broad global client base, offering a range of travel products across multiple destinations.
I am fortunate too to be supported by shareholders with significant assets and as they have demonstrated, we have their backing. Encouragingly they remain open for opportunities too that add value and opportunity to our existing business. We have a proven track record of growth, a pipeline forward that gives confidence and the platform on which to build. People will always want to travel and although I think it’s not going to be an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination, we will be there for them whenever they do.