Few countries fascinate people for so many reasons as Mexico: the rich history, the colourful culture, the divine Caribbean beaches, the untouched nature and an infectious delight in living. This is a place where the TUI Group wants to grow – with the help of Alberto Cervera Xicotencatl and Peter Ulwahn.
Whenever he talks about his country, his voice quivers with pride and his eyes begin to sparkle. When the mariachis strike up and their music fills the little taquería, Alberto Cervera Xicotencatl beams with pleasure. The song tells of revolution and great change. For the head of TUI’s Mexican operations, transformation is very much on the agenda right now. Since November TUI Destination Services has been working separately from Hotelbeds Group. Now it caters exclusively for TUI as a one-stop shop for all source markets.
First call Mexico
The dinner in the taquería is to welcome Peter Ulwahn, who is visiting Cancun. Within TUI Destination Services he is in charge of the long-haul business, and in the next few months he will be dropping in on all his teams around the globe. Mexico, one of the best-loved long-haul destinations, is his first port of call. “I want to grasp the day-to-day detail of working with our customers,” explains the native Swede. “Where do we need to take action, what services are we already offering, and which excursions sell best? It’s the only way I can support my teams as effectively as possible to make sure our customers are happy.”
The North American country currently attracts a big proportion of the long-haul holidays booked with TUI. “Last year we had over 300,000 guests here,” Cervera Xicotencatl proudly reports. And the TUI Group wants to keep growing. “Mexico has enormous potential. In the next few years we hope to increase the number of guests to more than 400,000,” says Ulwahn. TUI has hit the accelerator across its entire long-haul business: the target for the next five years is over 50 per cent growth in the volume of guests.
»Mexico currently attracts a big proportion of the long-haul holidays booked with TUI. Last year we had over 300,000 guests here.«ALBERTO CERVERA XICOTECATL, Head of Mexico, TUI Destination Services
Online meets offline
It is the technological aspect that most inspires Ulwahn. Apart from numerous other projects, investments are being made in a global customer platform and the new app myTUI. “We want to look after our customers in tune with their wishes. The app will help us understand what their personal requests were last time they travelled with TUI. That opens up huge opportunities,” enthuses the affable strategist at a morning meeting in the Sensatori Resort. “Our customers will have TUI at their side from the booking until the trip home,” he adds, in a reference to the TUI Group’s one brand strategy. “We want to be where the customer is. If that is online, we need to be available online. If the guest prefers to meet personally, then we will offer that. It’s our job to respond to different needs,” declares the travel expert. “For us in Mexico, for example, that means that all seven core hotel brands and concepts ought to be involved, and that the new Dreamliner will fly peo-ple over,” Cervera Xicotencatl explains to his team. So far there is a Sensatori, two Sensimar and altogether 17 Riu hotels.
DOM. REP.248,000 guests
The turtle moment
Claire Morley, team leader at the Sensatori Resort on the Riviera Maya, tells the meeting about a very special experience. Some turtles had nested on the beach outside the hotel, ready to breed. But so much seaweed had been washed up that after they laid their eggs they could not find their way back to the sea unaided. The team, together with guests at the hotel, helped the animals return to the open waves. “Our holiday-makers were so overwhelmed by it, they talked of nothing else for the whole trip,” she rhapsodies. Peter Ulwahn is impressed by the story too, and hopes there will be more turtle moments. In fact, TUI has created an exclusive new product line – TUI Collection – so that guests can have an authentic, close-up view of the region and the people and enjoy an unforgettable travel experience. For these excursions, TUI guarantees a global quality standard that takes particular account of sustainability criteria. The holiday region and local community are to benefit from these tours, either by being directly involved or because TUI donates a fixed amount per guest to local charities.
»In the next few months I will be dropping in on my teams all around the globe. I want to understand the day-to-day details of working with our customers.«Peter Ulwahn, Regional Director Longhaul, TUI Destination Services
To take part in this glimpse behind the scenes, Ulwahn and Cervera Xicotencatl join a group of holiday-makers later that day as they set out on a Tulum jungle expedition into the rain forest of Yucatán. They gasp as they step inside the cenotes, the distinctive limestone caves: stalactites hang from the roof and dip into a turquoise lake, bats flit across the visitors’ heads, and the sky is revealed through a hole in the centre. For the Maya, these mysterious places are sacred sources, and the visitors can only enter after a ritual cleansing. Afterwards there is a lunch prepared by Maya women: lentils, legs of chicken, habanero chilis, rice and black beans. At the end of an exciting day, the excursionists chill in the archeological city of Tulum.
Alberto Cervera Xicotencatl and his team are especially proud of the TUI Collection expeditions. Business Support Manager Carolina Bojorquez has Maya roots herself, and is delighted when visitors do not simply make the most of life in the hotel, but also ask about her homeland. “A lot of people come to Mexico expecting to find men in ponchos sitting beneath cactus trees. When they leave, they know it isn’t like that at all. There are 32 states here, each with its own traditions and peculiarities – but I have never seen a man sitting under a cactus,” laughs the 44-year-old, who describes herself as a Yucateca. “Mexico is colourful and diverse. The food is amazing, and we have a rich culture and history. I am proud to be Mexican,” she pronounces at the joint dinner. Her personal recommendation: Isla Holbox. Peter Ulwahn is also a fan of the little fishing island with its flair, its streets of sand and the individual boutique hotels. He recently took his own family there on holiday. “One evening we walked barefoot under the starry sky, along the beach from town back to the hotel. I call that ‘barefoot luxury’, I love it,” Ulwahn recalls with a smile.
He is looking forward to the coming challenges and to working with his team. He knows they can only reach their goals together. That’s why, after an eventful day, he so appreciates moments like this shared meal in the taquería – with Alberto Cervera Xicotencatl, Carolina Bojorquez and the rest of the team, over tacos and guacamole, with a round of futbolito (table soccer) and the resounding tones of the mariachis.