The boss of the UK’s second largest tour operator is calling on the industry to come together to lobby government to stop the demise of the high street in the UK.
Speaking at his annual conference for independent agents in Turkey this week, Jet2holidays CEO Steve Heapy said: “I am upset by the continued demise of the high street. With a number of high profile businesses downsizing, going into administration or closing, it is a real concern.
“Some of these were real magnets. Where they were in town centres, they drew people in to shop, but as more shut down, there’s less and less reason to come in,” he said.
“I want to see the high street reinstated as the hub of every community which support local businesses, but there needs to be a co-ordinated strategy from government to support this and revive our high streets into vibrant places again, where people want to come shopping.”
Heapy said the travel industry employs a huge number of people who should “come together and take action”.
And he called on Abta to lead the charge.
“In my local town just outside of Bolton, lots of the shops have shut and the council has not only imposed extortionate parking charges, but now there is a funfair taking up the entire car park so people can’t park to get into the high street even if they wanted to,” said Heapy.
“Local councils are contributing to the demise of the high street when they should be saving it. We all need to lobby Government to act now to get things back on track.”
“At Jet2holidays, we want to work with you guys on the high street. You provide a fantastic service to your communities – but we need more support centrally.”
Heapy said the industry should lobby government for lower business rates, to tackle the big issue of parking and to give incentives to small business owners in town centres.
Meanwhile, Jet2holidays has apologised for the long wait times agents experienced trying to get through to its call centre earlier this year, saying: “We cocked up and we are sorry. But it’s fixed now.”
Heapy said: “We had a few issues at the beginning of the year. We cocked up a bit. We didn’t have enough staff and wait times to get through to someone increased considerably.
“This was extremely disappointing, annoying and upsetting for us all, particularly since we’ve always prided ourselves on giving you great service.”
But he said: “It’s now fixed. I got personally involved and we recruited more people for our call centres which we now have in Leeds, in Manchester and in Palma, Majorca, plus we have extended our homeworking division. We are also looking to set up more call centres as we continue to grow.”
Heapy added: “We have an internal target that we have to answer sales calls into our call centre within 80 seconds and after-sales calls within three minutes.”
He also pledged to move out of his office in January 2019 and into the heart of the call centre to personally ensure that the issues are not repeated.
Agents at the VIP agents’ conference welcomed the news.
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