As reported on www.ittn.ie yesterday, a statement issued by Thomas Cook announced that its Irish operation will move exclusively online and no longer offer charter holidays from 30th April 2014, while the proposed restructuring “potentially affects 44 roles/employees in the business”.
The potential loss of 44 jobs is sad news for the Irish travel trade and the removal of Thomas Cook’s charter seats (reportedly some 70,000) from the Irish holiday market will be significant – but a development that will boost this year’s prospects for the remaining charter operators, including Falcon/Thomson Holidays and Sunway. Airlines such as Aer Lingus and Ryanair, and bedbanks, may also benefit as travel agents increase even further their willingness to dynamically package holidays.
The Thomas Cook – Ireland statement reads as follows:
“The transformation of Thomas Cook UK & Ireland is continuing at pace, and we have today announced proposals that will see our Ireland holiday offering move exclusively online via our leading website www.thomascook.ie.
“The proposal to move exclusively online would see Thomas Cook move away from charter holidays and focus on providing customers with a range of personalised holiday experiences providing greater flexibility on flight and accommodation options. Accordingly, Thomas Cook will no longer be offering charter holidays from 30th April 2014, after which time customers in Ireland will benefit from a ‘buy-to-order’ (Dynamically Packaged) holiday offering, rather than charter holiday (both of which include Thomas Cook accommodations and travel via third party airline partners) as well as the outstanding quality assurance they would expect from a trusted holiday provider.
“This decision – which caters for the growing number of customers in Ireland who book online – will see Thomas Cook retain a strong presence in the Irish travel market and allow the business to increase the number of direct customers, most of whom currently book through third parties, with a view to better serving their needs and requirements.
“The many customers who have booked a Dynamically Packaged holiday will enjoy their holiday as planned. However, a small number of customers have already booked a summer 2014 charter holiday with our Irish tour operator, and they will be proactively contacted so that we can provide them with an excellent alternative Dynamically Packaged holiday. As a gesture of goodwill, all charter customers booking an alternative holiday will benefit from a 10% discount per person as an added incentive to book with Thomas Cook.
“The proposal would also see Thomas Cook support the online Irish business from the UK, and the company is entering into a 30-day consultation with colleagues in Dublin with a view to closing the business support function based in Ireland.”
Reto Wilhelm, Managing Director of Thomas Cook UK & Ireland, said: “Our proposal to offer greater personalisation and flexibility to our Irish customers through our dedicated website reflects our high tech, high touch business strategy. We are committed as always to exceeding customer expectations and want to respond to the changes in the Irish market and be there for our customers 24/7. Our www.thomascook.ie website features a wide range of tailor-made holidays designed to meet the needs of our customers in Ireland – all of whom will directly benefit from the outstanding quality assurance they have come to expect from a trusted holiday provider, like Thomas Cook.
“This move exclusively online is right for the Thomas Cook Group and our customers in Ireland at this time. However, we fully appreciate the impact this decision will have on our Dublin-based employees. We are committed to doing everything that we can to support the team over the coming weeks should our proposal to enter a consultation process go ahead.”
“Our customers in Ireland are important to us and we have a leading website with a wide range of holidays available exclusively via www.thomascook.ie.”
“We will be speaking to all affected direct customers who have booked a charter holiday with us about their booking; customers will either be offered a suitable alternative or be reimbursed in full. Normal terms and conditions apply to charter holidays due to depart on or before 30th April 2014.”
“All customers that book an alternative holiday will benefit from a 10% discount per person, per booking as an added incentive to re-book. This discount will be applied by Thomas Cook at the time of re-booking.”
“Customers looking to make a charter booking with a departure date beyond 30th April 2014. These holidays will be suspended from sale during consultation. Cancellations in full (for free and in excess of normal T&Cs) will be permitted. All existing charter bookings with a departure date beyond 30th April 2014 will be offered a dynamically packaged holiday with a 10% discount or a full refund if the proposal goes ahead.”
“Dynamically packaged holidays remain unaffected by this proposal. Thomas Cook will continue to offer dynamically packaged holidays in the Irish market and our customers will be able to book exclusively online via www.thomascook.ie . Any customers that have booked a dynamically packaged or cruise booking travelling throughout 2014 will travel as planned and normal booking conditions apply.”
“If proposals go ahead, the business support function in the Ireland office will close on 30th May 2014 and the online business will be supported from the UK.”
“The proposal potentially affects 44 roles/employees in the business.”
“There will be a 30-day consultation period subject to the proposal.”
“The Irish leisure travel market has moved away from charter products over the last six years with online growing ever more prevalent in the holiday booking process. In contrast to other parts of the business, which benefit from an in-house airline as well as controlled distribution, Thomas Cook Ireland Tour Operator depends on third-party agents for distribution and third-party airlines for flying. This, combined with other structural and economic factors in the Irish market, has led to this proposal.”