Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel

Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel

By Ian Taylor

Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel
Former Co-operative Travel head Mike Greenacre has questioned Thomas Cook’s plans to close shops and appoint ‘cluster managers’.

Writing for this Business:am, Greenacre, architect of the joint venture with Thomas Cook, asks Cook to consider whether the plan “will deliver”.

He also queries the future for The Co‑operative Travel name, arguing: “There appears little attempt to continue differentiation between brands.”

Greenacre ran The Co-operative Travel for three decades, retiring at the end of 2011 after completing the joint venture.

He says the deal to combine the retail businesses “aimed to ensure The Co-operative Travel would continue to flourish while as many jobs as possible were protected”.

Greenacre argues the company was “still profitable” at the time, although its profitability was declining. “We knew not all jobs would be protected [and] unprofitable shops and businesses would close”, he says. But he said only about 15 shops “were losing significant money”.

Thomas Cook this month announced the closure of 195 shops – 103 of them Co-operative Travel branches – and is in consultation over the loss of 2,500 jobs.

Greenacre acknowledges the seriousness of Cook’s financial situation, but pleads: “Make certain the branches on the closure list really have no future.”

He says in his experience “less business transfers [to other branches] when a shop closes than you think”.

He also advises Cook to rethink the policy on cluster managers, saying: “This has been tried many times and never delivered.” Cook plans for assistant managers to run shops day to day, with ‘cluster managers’ having overall responsibility for two to five shops.

Greenacre’s biggest concern is the future of The Co-operative Travel brand.

“There has been little commentary about the part The Co-operative Travel will play in the long term,” he says.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: 
“We are absolutely committed to The Co-operative Travel.”

Oasis of the Seas to make Europe debut next year

Oasis of the Seas to make Europe debut next year

By Johanna Jainchill
The Oasis of the Seas will offer its first season of Europe cruises during one month in 2014 to coincide with a routine maintenance drydock in the Netherlands.

Royal Caribbean International said the 5,400-passenger Oasis would offer five Europe cruises in total, including two transatlantic sailings to and from Europe, and three cruises out of Barcelona, during a short autumn season.

The Oasis, along with sister ship Allure of the Seas, has been operating alternating Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises out of Fort Lauderdale since its debut in December 2009.

Beginning Sept. 1, 2014, the Oasis will offer two transatlantic crossings to and from Europe: a 12-day eastbound sailing from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona, and a 13-day westbound cruise returning to Florida from Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Oct. 14.

Travelers can also embark on the return cruise in Southampton, England, on Oct. 15.

While in Europe, the Oasis will offer two roundtrip, five-day Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and a seven-night sailing from Barcelona to Rotterdam, where the Oasis will enter drydock for routine maintenance.

Royal Caribbean said the seven-day cruise will call at Malaga and Vigo, Spain, while itineraries for the five-day cruises will be announced before they open for sale on April 11.

Thomas Cook price parity sparks rise in indie agents’ sales

Thomas Cook price parity sparks rise in indie agents’ sales

By Juliet Dennis

Thomas Cook price parity sparks rise in indie agents' salesIndependent agents have reported an increase in sales of Thomas Cook product following a move to single pricing across its in-house channels.

Cook introduced price parity across its shops, call centres and online in December. This allowed third-party agents to compete with the operator as the difference between Cook’s prices and independent agents’ narrowed.

In the coming weeks, the company plans to extend price parity to include sales through independents.

Hays Travel Independence Group has reported triple-digit percentage growth in sales of Thomas Cook holidays for summer 2013, while Advantage Travel Centres has reported a strong post-Christmas performance.

For years, online discounts have been a bugbear for independents because they could not compete on price and were forced to discount commission to win a sale.

Hays attributed its sales hike to Cook’s move towards price parity and the fact it had gained members who are strong sellers of Cook holidays.

Advantage head of commercial John Sullivan said consumers were shopping around less because prices differed “only by a few pounds”.

He added: “While price parity is not yet 100%, it’s now a lot easier for members to compete.”

It is understood Cook is also reviewing levels of commission to third-party agents.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “Following the launch of price parity, we’ve received fantastic feedback and we’ve seen an increase in sales through our agent partners.

“Our commercial agreements remain confidential, but there is no intention to reduce income levels; we’re maintaining a level playing field so they can match our retail and online pricing.”