If the reactions of three Waterford travel agents visited by ITTN’s Neil Steedman on Friday are typical, last week’s Thomas Cook announcement did not come as much of a surprise to travel agents countrywide.
While Thomas Cook’s complete withdrawal from the Republic of Ireland charter market and the planned closure of the Dublin office may be more than they expected, their frequent questions about a summer 2014 brochure last month – and the varying answers for the delays – led them all to expect “something significant”.
Tom O’Donohoe of Strand Travel Worldchoice told ITTN: “We were a bit surprised, but knew something was up because there was still no brochure. We didn’t have many booked with Thomas Cook anyway – about 20 – and we have switched most of those to Falcon or Sunway.
“It is sad because it means 44 less jobs and one less tour operator, so charter options are getting less and less. We wait to see how Aer Lingus and Ryanair react on prices and I think the remaining charter tour operators will probably wait until the end of January and then reassess their programmes.
“We have been busy this month and are 10% up on our first 17 days last year, with Spain, Turkey and Portugal still the top destinations.”
Sean Power of Harvey Travel was not surprised at all: “We kept asking for brochures last year and different reasons were given as to why it was not yet available. I think the Irish main charter market is on the way out, although niche tour operators will continue, as travel agents do more and more dynamic packaging. We have been doing very little with Thomas Cook or Sunway recently.
“We always check various bedbanks as to the best for each customer, because value for money is always the name of the game, and BookaBed usually stands out.”
Jean Cusack of Icon Travel said: “We expected something because the brochure was not out – and two weeks ago we asked for Malaga availability and were offered Flexibletrips, and last weekend we were told the brochure would be out ‘at the end of the month’!
“I expect the market will be tight this year. The other tour operators will decide whether to sit tight or add extra capacity – and I don’t expect Aer Lingus will be announcing any more sales to certain destinations!
“More and more, dynamic packaging is now the name of the game. We usually find Bedsonline, Lowcostholidays and BookaBed come out on top, with Lowcosts’ insurance cover being a plus.
“Clients seem to be booking earlier this year and have the higher deposits, or the full price for dynamic packages. Every destination is different – it depends on the route and the air fare.”