Tui Group joint chief executive, Peter Long, said the massacre of 33 of its holidaymakers in Tunisia this June will live with him and the business forever.
Speaking after the publication of the group’s full-year results, in which the group reported a 37% increase in pre-tax profits to €885 million, Long said the Tunisia tragedy had cost the business £52 million.
He said: “It’s been an eventful year where we have achieved much but it’s also been a year where as a group we have experienced the most tragic events I have ever had to experience in my 30 year history in travel, when we lost 30 customers in June in that horrific tragedy. The horror of it will live with us and me forever.”
He added: “The way our business handled this made me proud of the people in the organisation and one that makes me convinced that the logic of our merger [with Tui AG] to become the world’s leading integrated business is even more compelling. That was a year ago and one Tui is definitely stronger than two.”
He described the events in Tunisia and the more recent terrorist bomb attack in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which has resulted in Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel bans, as “absolute tragedies” for both tourist destinations.
He said: “All destinations recover, whether they fully recover is another matter. Sharm and the resort in Tunisia are like ghost towns. It is a tragedy for those countries that rely on tourism.”
The group has already shifted capacity from Sharm to destinations including the Canary Islands and Cape Verde, while “customers will decide” whether they want to go back, he said. Its long haul programme, particularly the western Caribbean, is also taking some of the business that would have gone to Sharm.
He added that the business “has the ability to absorb this [cost of Sharm]” in the first quarter of next year.
Long also paid tribute to the group as his tenure as joint chief executive comes to an end. He is to become a member of the supervisory board in February 2016.
“This is my last presentation of [Tui] results, I am on the verge of hanging up my chief executive boots. I have 30 years in the industry and 20 years with PLCs and I am one of the longest-serving Footsie chief executives. I bought my first shares in First Choice for 49p; that turned out to be quite a good investment for me.”
He said the merger of Tui Travel and Tui AG last December was a “fitting end to my executive career”.
“I think we have built a fantastic business which is now future-proofed and very strong to go forward and be positioned in the global tourism market,” he said.
He added: “People ask what are you going to do? There are plenty of things I am going to do. I am delighted in terms of broadening my experience in terms of becoming chairman of Royal Mail and I am looking forward to going on to [Tui Group’s] supervisory board where it’s about asking questions rather than answering questions. That’s the next chapter of my business career and I’m looking forward to it.”
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