Skift Take

It's a subtle change, but a change nonetheless. Virgin Holidays' growth plans cannot be met by going after the same old customers, it needs to broaden its appeal and try and convince holidaymakers who regularly fly to the Mediterranean to try something different.

Although not quite as famous around the world as its sister airline, Virgin Holidays has been in business almost as long.

Launched in 1985 a year after Virgin Atlantic with the aim of selling seats on board, the company has gradually morphed into a long-haul tour operator offering holidays to places like the U.S. and Caribbean.

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Last year revenue grew 4.5 percent to $755 million (£576 million) but to meet its targets the company wants to do something different.

The problem for Virgin Holidays is that there is now a lot more competition than there was 31 years ago.

The likes of Kuoni and Travel 2 have grown to pose a threat and mass market operators such as Tui and even Thomas Cook are increasingly able to look further afield because of new fuel-efficient aircraft.

To combat the competition Virgin Holidays is using the springboard of an advertising slot on prime time television to reposition itself in the market.

The “Unleash Your Mojo” tagline – which has been in place for more than three years – is being retired and replaced with “Seize The Holiday” in a bid to target aspirational travelers who maybe aren’t going on long-haul holidays.

The slogan might appear to be a small tweak but it is a sign of a bigger change at the company.

By appealing to a wider audience, Virgin Holidays is aiming to grow both customer numbers and revenues to record-breaking levels by 2018.

To make a splash – and to presumably generate plenty of media coverage – the new campaign is being launched in what is claimed to be a world first.

A live-streamed advert will feature 18 different scenes from eight Virgin Holidays destinations using a mixture of cast and real customers. It will debut during this Saturday’s X Factor.

The Message

“We really want to jolt people out of their current day to day reality and say ‘people like you are on these types of holidays right here, right now, don’t default to Torquay or Greece next year, pick the holiday you really want to go on,’” said Claire Cronin, customer and marketing director at Virgin Holidays.

Cronin added: “Transformation is something that everybody buys into but we want that transformation to be more accessible to more people. What we’re trying to do with ‘Seize The Holiday’ is to appeal more to that short-haul holiday market and encourage them to consider a long-haul holiday instead because we know that’s what they dream of.”

“So for us a real success metric would be actually increasing the number of customers who are travelling long-haul versus short-haul.”

The change in focus comes at a time during a period of change for Virgin Holidays.

Earlier this summer the company quietly launched The Holiday Lab, a new online community of around 11,000 of the company’s customers. The feedback from the online research will help inform business strategy, customer experience and marketing decisions.

Last October Virgin Holidays also announced that it was moving to a direct distribution model and ending sales through third-party agents.

“Owning the relationship with our customers allows us to deliver the personalization and differentiation to achieve our vision of offering the best customer experience in the UK,” the company said in its accounts.

According to its most recent set of accounts, released in April this year, Virgin Holidays Ltd. made a pre-tax loss of $2.1 million (£1.6 million) during 2015.

This slip into the red was largely attributed to a restructuring charge of $15.4 million (£11.6 million) relating to the company’s changed programme.

Stripping out exceptional charges left the company with a profit of $14.5 million (£10.9 million) and should the changes enacted over the past year prove successful, you would only expect this figure to grow.


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Tags: tour operators

Photo credit: An image from Virgin Holidays' latest campaign. The tour operator is aiming to broaden its customer base. Virgin Holidays

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