The merger between Thomas Cook and Co-op has been given the final go ahead so now Thomas Cook is even bigger and more powerful but is this at the expense of an historic company who once provided excellent tours and very high standards.
When I phone any of their departments it is not uncommon to wait over half an hour for a simple quote. They will never phone you back and they don’t use email. Tickets are often sent just 3 or 4 days before departure and it is very difficult to query anything because it is so difficult to get though.
Since working for an independent company, I really enjoy the relationships that I have with small, specialist companies such as African Pride, Transindus, Kirker, Prestige, Journeys Latin America, Regent, Classic Collection North America Travel, Planet and many others. Some of them even recognise my voice when I call them. All these companies treat us and our clients as individuals. They really know their product, they have special relationships with the hoteliers and the ground handlers and I really feel that they are doing the very best for my clients. You can phone or email them with any small query and they will find the answers and get back to you in a short space of time. Everything is continuous and you always know your individual contact and when they have a day off
A special request is what it says. I am confident that these companies will advise the hotels that it is a honeymoon or an anniversary or birthday and they are more likely to get a room upgrade or extras such as champagne. You don’t feel that special request is just two words on a bit of paper. I do always contact the hotel myself anyway regardless of whether I book through a small or a large company so in most cases the hotels do look after my clients anyway, but when I use a small company I find that first of all they are more willing to contact the hotel or ground handler and secondly because they have special relationships with the hoteliers it does make the whole experience more individual. It is also easier to find a reliable local contact on the rare occasions when things go wrong.
Another benefit of these small, individual companies is that they will source tailor made holidays for you, things that are not in the brochure such as tours, villas, transfers and so on, so that the clients get exactly what they want and not have to compromise just to get a lower price.
A few of the smaller companies ran into financial difficulties and were taken over by larger companies to survive and in most cases it has meant that companies like Meon, Citalia, Manos and Cresta can no longer provide the inviduality, knowledge and attention to detail that they had as small specialist companies.
On the other hand Holiday Options who really specialised in Corsica and Sardinia and French Life did not survive the recession and nobody has really taken their place so they are sadly missed.