The operator’s Chief executive Giles Hawke will mark a year in the role by overseeing a rebrand. He explains the reasons for the new look to Lucy Huxley

Giles Hawke celebrates his first anniversary as chief executive of Cosmos Tours & Cruises and Avalon River Cruises this month.

He is marking it by unveiling a fresh new look and feel for the company under the Cosmos brand, which he won back just a month ago from Monarch Holidays.

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Hawke says: “Cosmos is back and we want to shout really loud about it.”

The new logo and culture have been borne out of a major research project, conducted in October, with agents and consumers.

Hawke says: “We wanted to understand what consumers and agents thought of us. We found that those who were already customers/partners love us. But there were negative associations with the Cosmos brand among people who hadn’t travelled with us.

“We have changed the whole look and feel. It’s much fresher and more contemporary.”

Trusted brand

Hawke says while there was some negativity around the brand, there was also a strong feeling of trust, something he is keen to leverage.

“People trust brands, especially in today’s climate of terror and with a number of business failures in travel. So we need to reinforce our heritage and experience, while freshening the whole thing up.”

As well as a new logo, Cosmos has a new strapline: Adventures Made Easy.

Hawke says: “Our customers see going on one of our tours as a mini adventure. It’s a lot like cruising in that they get to see multiple places, but there’s more immersion in each place.

“We want people to realise that a tour is a great way to experience a place and have a true adventure, without wasting any time and by being looked after.

“Even if you’re pretty well-travelled, going on one of our adventures takes a lot of trepidation away.”

Cosmos is also using new imagery in its brochures and on its website, showing people looking at major sites and attractions.

The research also revealed that customers felt Cosmos was constantly having a sale.

“We are going to move from being the DFS of travel, which just confuses people about when the best time to book is, and focusing on our price-match guarantee.

“The aim is to try and educate people that we have the best rates all the time and don’t need to have constant sales.

“John Lewis’s ‘Never knowingly Undersold’ policy was one of the models we looked at,” Hawke says.

Cosmos’s price-match guarantee has been in place for two months and it has been asked, and has agreed, to pay out three times.

Hawke has also made changes to the products on offer, which he claims has made the range more varied, reliable and better value.

Previously, Cosmos would create its own tours for UK guests, which would sometimes get cancelled if not enough people booked.

Now, it is offering more globally-sold tours that are better value because of the greater purchasing power, cover more destinations and are guaranteed to run.

“It means in South America, for example, we can offer nine tours instead of three – all of which will operate,” he says.

“Our big survey also told us that customers like being with other nationalities – not just other Brits. Provided the tour is English‑speaking, mixed nationality tours really appeal.”

Private touring

Hawke is keen to create USPs for Cosmos products and says its private tours are proving popular.

Currently available in Asia and Africa, they are due to be rolled out across Europe in 2018, followed by South and North America.

Hawke says the private tours will appeal to new customers, ‘trying tourers’ as he calls them, who might be put off by travelling in large groups and in coaches.

He says Cosmos has found a way to offer private transportation for a couple of hundred pounds more than the cost for its group tours.

“My expectation is that [customers for private tours] are slightly younger too,” he says. “There are a number of multi-generational families that are starting to book a private tour.”

Hawke has high expectations 
for Cosmos Platinum – a new moniker for its four and five-star tours and holidays, previously listed as ‘Select by Globus’.

“Cosmos Platinum will clearly highlight the luxury options. Currently about 30% of sales are for Cosmos Platinum, but I see this going up to 50% in two years.”

More fams

Cosmos has pledged to take 200 agents on fam trips next year.

“We’ve already taken agents to Thailand and New York and have fams to Canada and China coming up, plus we’ve taken them on Avalon ships,” Hawke says.

“We want to show agents an escorted tour or a river cruise isn’t necessarily what they thought it was.

“Agents have been gushing about our trips and have come straight back and made bookings.

“As long as we keep seeing an uplift in sales from the stores that send agents on our fam trips, we will keep taking more away.”

Cosmos is also relaunching its agent website with an online booking system that automatically calculates commission.

“This allows the agent to be in complete cont-rol of the dialogue with the customer if they can get onto the system live and see what’s available, instead of having to phone someone,” Hawke adds.

Avalon ambitions

Hawke is determined to get the Avalon river cruise brand better‑known in the market so agents and customers can differentiate it from other lines.

“Everyone says we are luxury with great food and service, but [river lines] all go to the same places. So it’s high-quality, but it’s vanilla,” he says.

“From now on, we’re going to make Avalon the river cruise line for casual luxury. We don’t have butlers and are proud of it. We don’t have dress codes.

“Our ships are contemporary, so we don’t need to make the ambience ostentatious and formal.

“Our cruises are for ABC1 consumers but people who don’t want to be flashy with their money. There is no other line in this space.”

Hawke confirms the operator will extend its Avalon Discovery programme from the Danube to the Rhine this year, offering cycling, running and kayaking options.

“And he reveals it will embark on a new terrestrial TV campaign in the early summer “promoting Avalon in a way river cruising has never been presented before”.

The ads will air on prime-time TV in June and July and in the autumn.

“This will help agents,” he says. “They sell Viking just because they see the brand a lot so they have come to associate river cruising with Viking, but there are other options and so we need to tell them and support them.

“We need to create a river cruising brand that stands for something and which customers come into their shops or call them up for.”

Cosmos timeline

1928: Antonio Mantegazzabegins selling holidays as Globus

1961: Mantegazza family launches Cosmos Tours

1968: Monarch Airlines is formed and, with Cosmos Tours, falls under Globus umbrella

1987: Cosmos Tours changes name to Cosmos Holidays

October 2014: Greybull Capital buys The Monarch Group from Mantegazza family; Cosmos Tours & Cruises, a separate brand to Cosmos Holidays, stays with Mantegazza family

October 2015: Monarch begins phasing out Cosmos Holidays brand; Cosmos Tours & Cruises continues to operate

November 2015: Ex-Monarch chairman Hugh Morgan appointed executive chairman of Cosmos Tours & Cruises

February 2016: Giles Hawke appointed chief executive of Cosmos Tours & Cruises

March 2017: Company gains full rights to the Cosmos brand after ‘collaborative agreement’ with Monarch

April 2017: Cosmos Tours & Cruises rebrands as Cosmos