An open letter to travel operator TUI...
"Educate your employees that love is love, and that yes, two women can book a double room"
A letter to travel operator TUI (formerly Thompson)
When I was in Year 10, a group of girls passed me in the school hall. All I recall from that crossing was one of the girls throwing a lemon at me while the others ran out of the hall in hysterics...
The reason they threw something at me? Because I had recently come out as gay and was dating a girl in my year. I never received the support I needed from my school and decided to take things into my own hands for the foreseeable future.
Of course, I did not resort to violence, I drew a smiley face on the lemon and carried it around school as a mascot until it was an unrecognisable brown oval. My response was a silent one, but it sent a message to those girls and many more.
I have not held anything against those girls since, I am sure they have grown out of their ignorance, have jobs, maybe even a family of their own. What they did was simple, they saw my reaction to their stunt and learnt from it — perhaps not immediately or even before they left school but I am confident they learnt something and decided to make a change.
Since contacting DIVA regarding an incident on a cruise holiday earlier this year, I have thought tirelessly about the response I would appreciate from UK-based travel operator TUI (formerly Thompson). I have written countless letters to them — even my girlfriend has taken the baton and written an email asking them to consider their stance, presence — or lack of — work within the LGBTQ+ community.
Please let me also make very clear that we have booked many holidays with TUI and have not received any treatment which we have deemed discriminative. This very point is what makes this case all the more poignant to us.
The only replies we have had from the company are entirely negligent of the topic in hand.
Let me briefly recap...
On 11 November 2017, we booked a holiday instore at TUI. We paid a deposit for the cruise and extra to choose a specific cabin. We chose to secure the fixed-double cabin we had stayed in the previous year and parted with £45 for the pleasure.
The advisor over the phone, who our sales representative had contacted, confirmed this booking — not a single individual at this stage batted an eyelid that we were a female couple thinking of sharing the same bed on a holiday.
Five months later, on 3 April 2018, we arrive at the port of Malaga to check in and collect our cabin cards. Upon opening the envelope for the cards, I notice that this is not the cabin we booked five months earlier.
Venturing back to the desk, I queried the cabin only to be told by the Guest Relations Manager on that cruise that she thought we would not need a double room as we are two women and she had therefore moved us to a twin room.
Those exact words from that woman were a new metaphorical lemon, but I could not alter them and sculpt them into words of optimism. She had clearly discriminated against my partner and I because of our sexuality.
Not only that, but she had the audacity to admit so — not once did she realise or admit her fatal error. She was content in the decision she had made.
We were eventually moved to a room which was advertised as a double, but was in essence two twin beds pushed together with a wonderful gap down the middle (rivalling the Grand Canyon). Yes, TUI did refund us the £45 booking fee and because of this, they believe their role is over.
All I want from TUI is the acknowledgement that a member of their global team made a horrendous error, an error that impacted our entire holiday, an error which has left an incredibly sour taste in our mouths.
TUI employ approximately 67,000 people, it owns six airlines, and is the largest travel company in the world. What a glorious position they are in to make a change, to use their marketing budget to make an impact, to support a community which most certainly uses and access their services.
I’m sure you have seen their well-staged, well-rehearsed adverts which house the slogan, “We cross the Ts, dot the Is, and put U in the middle” — if you’re a heterosexual couple, that is.
Why have they not used their colossal platform of advertising to encompass a diverse range of customers? A single parent with their children? A family from an ethnic minority? A same-sex couple? A disabled person or couple?
Each advert I have seen contains a white, opposite-sex couple being spoilt rotten by doting TUI reps. But they’re a market leader… no not even a leader, they are the market victor — the monopoly holder — can they not just open their marketing minds to the world as a whole?
Instead of receiving an acknowledgement of TUI’s homophobic hiccup, all we have to show for our trouble is: “Unfortunately, we will not be offering any compensation on this occasion… but we are sorry if we have caused offence or disappointment.”
No, you are not sorry and I never asked for financial compensation. You just assume that is what I want. And “if”, are you joking? Of course you have caused offence. I do not write these sorts of letters to people who I wish to praise and lavishly compliment.
What I want TUI, is for you to begin to use your power within the hectic world of consumerism we live in to spread a message of love, of support, and to educate your employees that love is love, and two women can book a double room, as two men can.
Alas, I know you will not respond to this. I know I will simply continue to receive correspondence from people within customer services who hide behind a screen and do not even have the respect to pick up a phone and finalise this issue.
DIVA approached TUI for comment but have not had any response
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