On April 4 in London, hundreds of the travel industry’s brightest and best will gather for the first Skift Forum Europe. In only a few short years Skift’s Forums — the largest creative business gatherings in the global travel industry — have become what media, speakers, and attendees have called the “TED Talks of travel.”
This year’s event at Tobacco Dock in London will feature speakers including CEOs and top executives from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Norwegian Air, Google, Lonely Planet, Momondo Group, and many more.
The following is part of a series of posts highlighting some of the speakers and touching on issues of concern in Europe and beyond. See the complete list of amazing speakers and topics at this year’s event.
TUI Group is part-way through a major rebranding exercise, which will see national brands in countries across Europe replaced with the TUI name. At the same time the company is moving away from being a traditional tour operator to what it is calling an “integrated tourism business” with an ambition to take ownership of more of the points in a traveler’s journey.
Part of the responsibility for managing this change lies at the feet of Erik Friemuth who sits on the company’s Group Executive Committee as Chief Marketing Officer. Ahead of his appearance at Skift Forum Europe on April 4 in London, Skift caught up with him to discuss the challenges he faces.
Skift: You’re currently engaged in moving from a multi-brand to a single brand, how is this going?
Friemuth: The rebrand that we’re currently doing is based on our belief that we would like to develop a global TUI brand that helps us to market ourselves more consistently than we did previously. The main thing is the customer experience. There are lots of things or reasons why you want a single brand, but a consistent customer experience for our customers across our various markets is the main reason.
Skift: That must present a lot of challenges to TUI. The Netherlands, Germany, and the Nordics are all subtly different markets. How have you gone about the change and how has it been received so far?
Friemuth: It’s been very successful so far. We rebranded the Netherlands last year. As a result, we’ve seen the highest unaided awareness for TUI in the Netherlands ever measured. Even if you take into account the former brand, which was in the market 80 years. And we see younger target groups joining TUI, which is one of the main secondary aims that we have, to modernise and broaden the brand and to make the brand popular in younger target groups.
This year we’re currently doing the four Nordic markets as well as Belgium. And again we see similar patterns so it helps us to approach the younger target groups it helps us to market ourselves better. In some cases we even grow market share. The UK is due for this year together with Ireland.
Skift: TUI is evolving from a traditional tour operator to a broader tourism company. What does this mean? How does the marketing relate to this?
Friemuth: We’re trying to broaden the brand. The rebranding is a very good opportunity because we have the means to tell the TUI story a little bit differently. For example, in the Netherlands we’re also promoting new services like our villas product.
Skift: TUI is targeting more source markets across the world in places it previously didn’t operate such as Asia, South America and Southern Europe. How are you going to achieve this?
Friemuth: The brand is not so well known in those territories. However, TUI is a massive tour operator brand and through our destination services we are known in the b2b areas of those territories.
The virtual tour operator model that we developed is definitely a very good proposition that helps us to broaden our scale. This is meant especially for markets that we are not present in currently with our tour operators or retail chain.
Skift: Are traditional travel agencies still an important distribution point for TUI?
Friemuth: Absolutely, we believe strongly in cross-channel experiences and we are committed to retail it’s important in many of our markets. We’re even increasing the number of shops in some of our markets. It really depends on the customer demand, in Germany as well as in the UK we see further opportunities.
Skift: You’ve recently moved into the content space with website travel.me. What was the thinking behind this and how do you see it growing?
Friemuth: Social media is very strong and with our product, travel, we have fantastic content that we’d like to share. Travel.me is our content hub, which we then can use in many channels and across many territories.
Erik Friemuth will be speaking at Skift Forum Europe on April 4 in London.