A new service allowing holidaymakers to pre-book their spots by the pool could finally put an end to sunbed wars.
Thomas Cook customers will be able to pay €25 per sunbed, per stay to secure their sunbed before they go on holiday.
The initiative is being trialled in three Thomas Cook own-brand hotels from the end of February and will be available in 30 own-brand hotels for Summer 2018.
Cook claims its Choose Your Favourite Sunbed is the first service of its kind to be offered by a package holiday company in the UK.
Customers will receive an email six days before departure asking if they want to choose their sunbed in advance and can choose their preferred location from a pool plan.
Only 10-20% of all the sunbeds in any resort will be available to reserve in advance.
It follows the launch of Choose Your Room which allowed customers to select the room they wanted in their hotel ahead of travelling.
Cook says the new service is part of an over-arching strategy to personalise package holidays.
The announcement coincides with the launch of new research from Cook which found 74% of parents feel they lack quality time with their children and 72% wish they had more time to talk to their children about their day.
Thomas Cook Group chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “Our research found that parents are spending only one hour’s quality time with their kids a day.
“So we thought, how do we help to give them more quality time? Our customer feedback shows that parents hate having to run for their sunbeds in order to be together with their kids. Our survey found that 30% of British parents would like to choose their sunbed.”
Asked if the initiative merely moved the ‘sunbed fight’ from the pool to the website, as customers race to log on and reserve the best spots, Fankhauser said:
“If that happens then we know we have hit the nail on the head of what our customers want. Just as they clearly want to be able to choose their room or book early arrival access to their room.”
When challenged that the option to reserve a sunbed was another way of making more money from the customer but keeping the headline price of the holiday lower, Fankhauser replied: “It is optional. We are not forcing anyone to pay for these extra services.
“It’s just one part of our aim to make our holidays as individual as possible, so we can give a better service and every customers has a fantastic time,” he said. “It’s about being a real innovator in the sector. Being disruptive.”
Fankhauser stressed that the ‘Book Your Sunbed’ service would not re-ignite old battles between the Brits and the Germans, over who could get their towels (metaphorically) on the sunbed first.
“This service will be available in all our major source markets, but will be attracting people to use it, not creating a new sunbed war.
“It will not be a case of Scandinavia, German and the UK being against each other. It’s just an additional service.
“In those hotels where we share a lot of nationalities, the experience is very inclusive, so that won’t suddenly change because customers can now reserve their sunbeds before they travel,” he said.
The research, conducted by family psychologists, also showed that half of parents say holidays are their top spending priority in 2018, closely followed by days out in Britain (46%). Almost 80% believe holidays allow them to reconnect with their children.
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