Holidaymakers could swap Spain for Belgium amid summer heatwaves, says Tui boss

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Extreme weather events, such as the heatwave and wildfires in southern Europe this summer, may change the travel preferences of holidaymakers, according to Sebastian Ebel, the CEO of Tui, the UK’s second biggest tour operator. Ebel predicts that people will increasingly choose cooler destinations and travel during shoulder seasons. He believes there will be a greater focus on new destinations such as the Nordic countries, Belgium, and Holland. This echoes a previous assessment by The Independent, which suggested a return to British seaside resorts, nearby overseas nations like Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, or the Baltic coast of Poland due to the extreme heat in southern Europe.

In addition to these cooler destinations, Ebel expects perennial favorites with moderate climates like the Canary Islands to also see a boost in popularity. Tui, as one of the world’s leading tourism groups, is looking into extending its seasons into spring and autumn. The CEO has already confirmed that his company will operate holidays in Greece until mid-November, and these bookings have been described as “really strong.”

A recent report by The Independent explored how the climate crisis will impact the way people vacation. One expert warned that if southern Europe continues to experience temperatures over 40°C, traditional beach holidays may no longer be possible. However, Ebel believes that the traditional summer break will remain popular with the majority of travelers. He sees the changing travel preferences as opportunities for growth rather than threats to Mediterranean-focused businesses.

Tui faced challenges earlier this year when wildfires forced the evacuation of 8,000 guests from the Greek island of Rhodes. However, Ebel disputes the severity of the situation as described in the media. The disruptions incurred a reported cost of €25m, and there was a slight decrease in bookings during the crisis. Nevertheless, the situation has now normalized, and the company stated that 80% of its customers on the island were unaffected by the fires. Bookings for Tui are currently 5% higher than this time last year as the travel industry continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Tui’s financial results reflect this recovery, with pre-tax earnings of €169.4m in the three months leading up to June, compared to a loss of €27m during the same period in 2022. This marks the company’s first profitable early summer since before the onset of Covid-19. Overall, Tui remains optimistic about the future of travel, despite the challenges posed by extreme weather events and the climate crisis.

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