Just like any other birthday celebration, there was cake on offer for the tourists flying with Jet2.com airline when it celebrated its 15th anniversary at Malaga airport on Monday. To mark this important anniversary Steve Heapy, the CEO of the airline and Jet2holidays tour operator, talked to us about the company's plans for growth in a destination which he says “has a magic which our clients adore”. So much so do they adore it, in fact, that in the 2017-2018 season the airline brought 43 per cent more travellers to this area and expects to grow by a further eight per cent in the next year, offering a total of 915,000 seats. This summer, it is operating no fewer than 70 flights a week to the Costa del Sol.
How has the Costa del Sol changed in the past 15 years?
Well, firstly I would like to congratulate the company, the workers and Malaga airport on this anniversary; 15 years, that's fantastic! With regard to the destination, although it has evolved a great deal during that time, some things are the same: the climate, the wonderful resorts, the beaches, the option of Malaga city for a weekend break and a whole range of attractions which continue to excite tourists, whether it is their first visit or they are coming for the tenth time. There is a magic here which our clients love and we work every day so they can enjoy every moment. We have just celebrated our 15th anniversary with a flight full of happy clients who were coming to enjoy a few days' holiday on the Costa del Sol. One of the main changes since we began is that this summer we will be operating 70 flights a week from this airport.
You are obviously committed to this destination, but what makes it a favourite with your clients?
There are numerous reasons that the Costa del Sol is so popular in the UK and they are all very important for British tourists when planning their holidays. We are responding to that strong and stable growth in demand, which is why this summer we are increasing our number of seats by 12 per cent.
The figures speak for themselves. In the 2017-2018 season, your airline has grown by 43 per cent at Malaga airport and you now have contracts with over 200 hotels. What do you think the destination needs to do in order for successes such as yours to continue?
The Costa del Sol is very well equipped to continue being successful in the future. We are certain of that and the proof is that Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are getting stronger every year. At the same time, we can't rest on our laurels because other destinations in Europe are also becoming more successful and attracting more visitors. As far as we are concerned, we want to form even closer and transparent links with the hotels and local institutions so we can all continue to grow together.
What plans do Jet2.com and Jet2holidays have for the Costa del Sol this year?
Between summer 2018 and winter 2018-2019 we are increasing our seats by about eight per cent. From the point of view of innovation in customer service, wewill continue to implement our new 'Resort flight check-in service', which enables clients to check-in for their flight directly from the hotel and therefore not have to queue at the airport. We are also the only airline which is already selling tickets for the next winter season.
Do you think the Costa del Sol could be affected by competition from rival markets such as Greece, Turkey or Tunisia this summer? How could it affect Andalucía as a whole?
Despite the growing demand for destinations, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are totally committed to Spain and the Costa del Sol, as I said earlier, with more seats, more flights, more hotels and villas with which our tour operator Jet2holidays works. However, everyone does need to be aware that competition from other destinations is increasing.
Do you think the fact that some hotels have raised their prices could be a problem?
Bearing in mind that demand for other destinations is growing, we need to be careful about this sort of thing. The hotels on the Costa del Sol, and Spain in general, have had some very positive years, especially recently, and that's why they have put their prices up, as well as to finance improvements. Our message is simple and it is firm: we are here to stay and to consolidate ourselves, working with tour operators and looking for ways to keep our clients happy. But yes, we also recommend that hotel owners should bear in mind that the competition is becoming more aggressive.
What sort of traveller chooses the Costa del Sol?
La Costa del Sol has something for all types of tourist. At the same time, Jet2holidays offers accommodation to suit all travellers, and that combination makes this such a successful and important destination for us. Our latest project is the Jet2villas programme, which means that couples or families can enjoy all the advantages of a complete package holiday, including free car hire among others, but with the freedom of staying in a villa. At present we have more than 100 villas on the Costa del Sol in our brochure.
What does the Costa del Sol mean to the operations of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays in Spain and Europe as a whole?
The Costa de Sol is very important to us. It is our second most important destination on the Peninsula: last year we brought 380,000 clients here, from the nine bases we have in the United Kingdom.
If you had to give advice to those in charge of tourism in this destination, or to business owners in Malaga, what would you say to them?
I would like to focus on the subject of two concepts we have talked about in this interview: I would tell them that they can trust Jet2com and Jet2holidays, because we are here to stay, grow and become consolidated and, at the same time, that they should be aware of the growth in other destinations with whom they have to compete in terms of price, product and promotion.