A little more than four months after it announced that it would to become a purely direct-sell tour operator after 30 years of selling through the trade, Virgin Holidays has announced a partnership with Orlando-based Tourico Holidays in which the latter will open up Tourico’s inventory of hotels throughout the world.
Virgin Holidays, which bills itself as “the largest, most successful transatlantic tour operator, and market leader for travel to the USA,” provoked a strong negative reaction from travel agents as well as other UK tour operators when it announced late last October (just weeks before the World Travel Market convened in London) that it was circumventing the trade by selling directly to consumers through its website and national network of retail stores in the UK.
At a news conference during WTM held early last November in London, Mark Anderson, managing director of Virgin Holidays, said that the decision “has not won me any popularity awards with agents,” but emphasized that there would not be any reversal of the move. “Owning the customer experience end-to-end is really important to us as it helps us enhance the overall experience for the customer, particularly pre-departure,” he said. He added that the company would be securing even more leisure flying from its sister airline, Virgin Atlantic, going forward.
For Tourico, the venture is about more than just the UK outbound market to the USA. The company also plans to grow inbound travel to the UK by adding to its partner support team on the ground, increasing the number of hotel partners in the market, securing deals at hotels in London, and by leveraging its network of tour operators and other distributors in primary source markets—including Canada, the United States, China, and the Middle East. Tourico has also committed to opening an office in downtown London, which will house nearly 100 team members by 2018.