I was really proud to welcome one of the most-experienced men in travel onto the stage at our latest Travel Weekly Business Breakfast this week.
Peter Long, group chief executive of Tui Travel, was as assured and insightful as ever as he candidly discussed his career, his company, the market and its challenges.
It was only six weeks ago that Harriet Green, the woman at the helm of Europe’s other travel giant, Thomas Cook, graced the same stage. It was a feat to secure two of the biggest names in travel for consecutive events, and for both to be so forthcoming with their views and strategies was a rare treat.
And it was heartening, after years of economic woes and consumer belt-tightening, to hear Long say he is currently seeing more than just green shoots of recovery. He said UK consumer confidence was definitely picking up.
But, typical of a man who appears measured, he said: “We never assumed this, so what we’re seeing now is a bonus.”
It will also be a bonus if Long doesn’t have to use the £40 million he sets aside each year to cover the costs of unforeseen crises. “If we don’t need it, then it means an extra £40 million profit,” he said.
Long conceded that, with so much uncertainty at present – over Syria, the oil price, the economy – such contingency funds are unlikely to boost Tui Travel’s bottom line this year.
Instead, he advised everyone to brace for whatever lies in store. Coming from a man with 30 years’ experience, including two Gulf wars, September 11, the financial crisis, recession and the ash cloud, there wasn’t a person in the room who failed to take note.
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