Ginés Martínez, CEO of Jumbo Tours Group, assures that they will persevere in their particular way of working.
Ginés Martínez, CEO of Jumbo Tours Group, faces the future with optimism, although he is aware of the difficulties that still lie ahead. He assures that tourism is going to change and considers that it is not bad, calls for direct aid and maintains that the commitment to digitalisation and sustainability are unavoidable.
What is Jumbo Tours Group?
In general terms, Jumbo Tours Group was born as an incoming agency. We started 45 years ago and today we are perfectly consolidated. Brothers Basilio and Juan Guerra founded the company, they decided to later sell it and Jumbo Tours Group is now part of the Italian multinational Alpitour Group. Alpitour is one of the largest tourism corporations in Europe, and a forerunner in the Italian tourism sector. It has 11 tour operators; its own airline, NEOS; and hotel chain VOI Hotels. Jumbo Tours Group manages its own Destination Management Company (DMC) and has the largest distribution channel comprising more than 2,500 travel agencies. Today, our core business is still inbound, although we are a little different from the others.
Agencies, Inbound Tour Operators, Hotels… they all want to be unique. Why is Jumbo Tours Group different?
We specialised in building a very close cross-customer relationship, becoming more than just a service provider. In the end, we often become an extension of the client. We started with Alpitour, but we do it with many others. From the destination, we work for the tour operator and carry out everything from payment management, contracting, legal advice, personnel and more. This is the model we have been building with our main clients. Our differential value, in addition, is that we have a very consolidated team. We are not the cheapest, but our product is complete.
Where does Jumbo Tours Group currently operate?
We are based in Spain, both in the Balearic and Canary Islands. We also cover the entire peninsula, but we have physical offices in Barcelona, Alicante and on the Costa del Sol. In Portugal we are present in Porto, Lisbon and Faro. And we are also in Morocco, Tunisia and in cities such as Paris. Obviously, we are also in Italy, although there we operate under the name Alpitour in-coming. And we also have a presence in Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Cape Verde. In addition, together with Avoris, we are in Mauritius.
Where is Jumbo Tours Group heading?
We are going to continue with our business model, with our particular way of working. We also believe that the sector is heading towards a concentration that will accelerate with the pandemic. I sense a sector that is moving towards alliances.
This concentration has already begun.
Yes, it has already started and it will continue. Not all of them will be mergers or acquisitions, but there will be strategic alliances, it may be that joint projects will be created to develop new lines of work. I think there will be new developments.
Are you anticipating any acquisitions, mergers or alliances?
No. Not at all. We continue to strengthen alliances with our partners and clients, but in principle we are involved in the Alpitour project, which is very ambitious.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc throughout the tourism sector. Do you have more or less work?
A lot more work, although not very productive.
But if there is no travel.
A few weeks ago, I told my team that we’ve gone from remote work to working everywhere. It’s crazy. We have to be so thorough in our personnel management. We must not go overboard or have more resources than we can afford. You have to be aligned with the fall of the business. On the other hand, on the commercial side we have not stopped and this is one of the things that our clients have been very grateful for. During the first months of the pandemic, until December, we have been in a situation of operational normality, with the inevitable staff reductions, but working as if it were a normal year. And we have also generated a lot of work with the management of very few new bookings and cancellations…
When are these bookings for?
There are all sorts. Some are to travel now and others for the summer. We have to take into account the great volatility, which is now more closely linked than ever to the news. We have decided to sell as much as we can and what we are not going to sell in the end we have to manage so as not to create a problem for customers or suppliers. And then we have to manage payments and collections. We are all in the same bad way. Or just as well. All this management has generated a lot of work, which does not produce an economic return, but it has to be done.
Is this a good opportunity to sign up for good prices?
Yes, relatively speaking.
Are you taking advantage of it?
In general, we are using this opportunity to strengthen relationships with our partners, both suppliers and customers. Jumbo Tours Group does not have suppliers and customers, we have customers who buy from us and customers who sell to us. In the brokerage sector, which is what we do, we have to get along well with each other. We have taken advantage of this to strengthen our strategic relationships with suppliers or customers.
What about prices?
Before, there were continuous negotiations to try to make differential offers. To offer the best prices available a few days before competitors, now it is not so relevant. There were many commercial agreements with hotels that were backed by economic support. I am referring to deposits, guarantees or other formulas and all this is now at a standstill, it has disappeared from the market.
Are there no more guarantees?
There are agreements, but they are subject to the evolution of the pandemic. Initially, we set a review date with the hoteliers, which was mid-April, but it always depends on the market and the product. We have signed as if the summer will be back to normal but in April we will review.
Do you believe in sustainability?
Of course we do. We have jointly presented an expression of interest to access European funds to be more sustainable, more environmentally friendly along with AMResorts. We created the Green & Human Consortium to channel these objectives. We believe that the companies that make up the value chain of the tourism sector have the obligation to transform destinations to be more competitive, but to do so in a way that respects the environment. In addition, we already had an internal project that involved strengthening alliances with those suppliers that really have an environmentally-friendly vision. Both on the green side and on the human side. That is to say, to promote equal opportunities, empowerment of women and job stability.
Will we ever go back to years like 2019?
I believe so, and even better. We have a very long journey ahead of us in which, unfortunately, companies that contributed value will disappear. But due to a lack of economic capacity they will fall by the wayside. There will also be other companies which no longer add value to the tourism chain that is disappearing. I am confident that, in the end, either thanks to the Madrid government or to European funds, direct support will be given to companies. And I am not talking about financing. Direct non-refundable aid is needed. The industry will still be recovering throughout 2021. In the best-case scenario, this summer will be 50% of what it was in 2019, and there are many positive aspects that need to be in place for this to happen. From the summer onwards, we will start a steady recovery. Next 2022 will be a year of recovery and we will already see what has come to be known as pent-up demand. I think we will reach the 2019 level again in 2023.
What about this year’s summer season?
It will depend on travel restrictions and the vaccination plan. The latest news from the sector is positive, such as Boris Johnson’s announcement of de-escalation last week. In fact, it has led to growth in demand from the UK market. We have seen a tripling of British sales, although, interestingly, 35% are for summer 2022 and the other 65% for this summer. It is to be hoped that these measures to ease travel restrictions, de-escalated, will be replicated among other European countries and therefore improve holiday travel expectations. But we cannot make the mistakes of the past and we must bear in mind that Spain has a lot at stake in the summer. We are a seasonal destination and we cannot risk the entire summer for Easter. We need a joint mobility strategy of combined measures.
When will we see a Voi Hotels establishment in the Balearic Islands?
It is complicated. It’s not that we have no interest, but in Spain there is an excellent group of hotel managers. In addition, until 2019 – it remains to be seen if the situation changes now – it was almost impossible to find establishments at a reasonable price. In the Balearics we have Bravo Club or Sea Club, which are part of our personalised offers.
“We will overcome this difficult challenge by coming out stronger”, you told your staff at the beginning of the pandemic. Do you have any regrets?
I am convinced that we will overcome the pandemic. I have no doubts. Since the pandemic started, I have been holding open videoconferences with the whole team. And I always convey to them the message that we will get out of this situation. We have a shareholder who supports us and who has let us know that he believes in the project. However, now it is clear that nobody is going to come out stronger. We are all going to come out with bruises and big ones. It is going to be hard for us to get back to the shape we were in before the pandemic.
Will tourism have changed after the pandemic?
Yes, tourism will change and I don’t think it will be a bad thing. Social and environmental awareness is one of the objectives that private and public policies must follow and put into practice.
But earlier you told me that we will return to the parameters of 2019.
We will return to the 2019 macro-numbers, but it is clear that the scenario will not be the same. The problem is not the 16 million tourists who came to the Balearic Islands in 2019. We need the clients who come here to look for a more refined offer. There has to be a perfect coexistence with the residents. There is room for all types of tourism, but disrespectful behaviour must be eradicated.
Are traditional tour operators in decline?
No. I would even say in a model where similar measures are going to be a plus, with difficulties in air connectivity making specific flights essential to reach certain destinations, the tour operator makes more sense now than in 2019.
Will there be connectivity problems in the Balearics?
In the short term, yes. The airlines are going through a tough time and will be the key to recovery for certain destinations such as the Balearic Islands. I understand that connectivity will be limited at first, but it may even be greater than the existing demand.
Jumbo Tours Group recently created a service and experience division. What does this consist of?
First of all, it has to be said that travellers are still buying experiences in destinations. Customers have a wide range of products at their disposal. We have redesigned the offer at the destination. We want it to be less overcrowded, more exclusive, adapted to all profiles. And it is a priority to preserve the cultural legacy of the destinations. In addition, we have looked for suppliers of experiences that are respectful, not only with the environment, but also with the residents. We have an extensive portfolio of products with these characteristics.