Cooks/Coop merger approved

The latest news is that this has been approved by monopolies and mergers so it’s a done deal but is it really good for the industry?

A bit of rivalry on the high street is healthy. When I worked on the high street there was Thomas Cook, Going Places, WH Smith Travel, Thomson, First Choice and the Co-op.

Admittedly there was never enough work for six agencies in one high street but it is startling that now only Thomas Cook has survived and they are rarely busy.

Such is the impact of the Internet in London. Thomas Cook themselves had 22 London branches and now they have only 6 and it is a similar story with Thomson

Equally interesting is that things are very different in northern cities where high street still have two or three agencies competing against each other but it is also likely that the co-op name will disappear like My Travel and First Choice

Once Thomas Cook had merged with My Travel/Airtours there was less choice and more pressure to sell in house, so with the Co-op this is history repeating itself, although the scenario is a little different because Co-op don’t have a tour operation themselves but in some ways this makes things worse at the Co-op end of the deal because from being an agent that was as independent as a multiple agency could be, they will now be told to sell Thomas Cook

Sadly the service that I get from any of the companies that they own, Cresta, Gold Medal, even Thomas Cook Signature has deteriorated alarmingly as staff are lost because they don’t want to relocate or cannot accept the new terms and only some of them get replaced, usually with young school leavers that do not have the product knowledge and expertise that they once did, even worse is when phone calls are answered on overflow (I suppose I should be grateful that they answered at all) Tickets do not get dispatched on time and there are many problems with inaccurate documentation

I have noticed that there are less flights and less routes which does save the problem of overcapacity on some routes but it also means that Thomas cook and Thomson control all the prices which isn’t healthy. Flight only prices have gone through the roof this summer so it impossible to tailor make an itinerary if we have a £550 flight for a total £600 budget. This is designed to ensure that customers will buy a package, only from them and preferably on the web so they can undercut even their own shops, but wouldn’t it be better to actually sell the flight for £350-£400 rather than leave it unsold or having to reduce it last minute?

The only positive thing about the inevitable disappearance of Co-op travel is that awful orange uniform will also go but seriously, I hate to see any travel company disappear or merge and my sympathy goes out to Co-op staff who face an uncertain future, the same as My Travel did before them


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