How do you write a letter to 150,000 people that you do not know personally? Who have 150,000 different stories, live in various countries, and each has their personal experiences and feelings about the past weeks. 150,000 people who have one thing in common: they were looking forward to a wonderful holiday. And they entrusted the organisation of their holiday to Sunweb Group. But it all turned out differently than you expected.
Frankly, I do not know exactly how one writes such a letter, and yet I still would like to address you personally. I am Mattijs ten Brink, CEO of Sunweb Group. With this letter, I want to let you know that I am thinking of you. I deeply care about all that happened with regards to your holiday.
Due to the rapid advance of the coronavirus and the acute measures by the various governments, we sometimes had to severely intervene in your holidays. Our team has worked tirelessly to bring almost one hundred thousand customers back home safely and timely: an unprecedented logistical challenge.
As a travel organisation, we normally gain gratification from the fact that our customers have had enjoyable holidays that exceed their expectations. Holidays that create beautiful memories. In these times, however, we have had to put our responsibility for your well-being above your holiday joy. It must be said that this was a very painful experience for us. I am also very well aware of the impact this has had on you and your travelling companions.
In some cases, we had to intervene in response to a direct measure that was implemented by either the country of your destination or your home country. In other cases, we preventively had to take the decision ourselves to get you back home. We did this if we could not guarantee a carefree and safe return home in the days or weeks that would follow. In addition, we had to cancel many holidays in advance. Holidays that you were probably very much looking forward to. That must have been a huge disappointment. In all cases, we have asked for your patience and that was a great deal to ask in these uncertain times.
During the completion of this ‘operation’, we were forced to improvise. In the process, we have intensively collaborated with our transportation partners and with local governments ensuring the safe and timely return of each one of our guests. Our people in the contact centres and planning have worked day and night. Often times our plans went well, in other cases it just did not work, leading to difficult and frustrating moments, also for you.
As such, I have heard of many situations that posed extra challenges for you: customers about to depart, suitcase in hand, and only then they heard that their holiday had been cancelled. Guests who were no longer able to eat in the hotel because the restaurant had closed. Groups of people that were unsuspectingly enjoying their holiday together, but were told by us, on the spot, that their departure was planned to be within a few hours. In some cases, you had to go home by bus where you were supposed to fly. Or you had to travel a great deal further by bus, in order to depart from a different airport.
We have also asked you not to call us, but promised that we would contact you. We did this to be able to handle all communication and operations in order of highest urgency. It meant that some of you did not hear from us for quite some time. I am sorry that we were not always able to take away the uncertainty and irritation this all has created. In the weeks to come, you will be in need of clear communication. You can trust us to help you to the best of our abilities.
Perhaps some of you will be less satisfied with the arrangements around the compensations of your (partial) unrealised holiday. Because of these exceptional circumstances, we have, in consultation with our industry associations, the national authorities and the guarantee funds, chosen for the corona voucher. With this solution, we ensure that all customers will retain the value of their payment and that our partners and we can remain there for you in the future.
I would like to end this letter by expressing again that I care deeply about all of this. I am very sorry if we were not able to meet your expectations. I hope that you will come out of this crisis safely and healthy. We would love to organise your well-deserved holiday in the future.
Mattijs ten Brink
CEO Sunweb Group