Thomas Cook today claims to be the biggest holiday company operating into Greece with the opening of the first Cook’s Club hotel in the country.

The company expects to send three million holidaymakers to Greece in 2018, up more than one third on two years ago.

The new Cook’s Club in Hersonissos, Crete, is the latest addition to a 188-strong own-brand portfolio and one of 47 Thomas Cook own-brand hotels in Greece.

The company plans to have as many as 15 Cook’s Club properties open by summer 2019.

The group is to invest around €150 million in the Greek tourism industry this year, up 22% on 2016. The company employs 1,050 people locally across its three own-operated hotels and its destination customer support and commercial teams.

The introduction of Cook’s Club follows boutique lifestyle brand Casa Cook which also appeared in Greece first in Rhodes in 2016, with a second property added last summer in Kos and a third set to open towards the end of this summer in Chania.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said that the company had opened up four new destinations in the country and had added more than 34 new routes in the last two years alone.

Speaking in Crete alongside the Greek tourism minister, Elena Kountoura, at the opening of Cook’s Club, he added: “Greece has grown fast in the last two years to become Thomas Cook’s second-biggest destination.

“Since 2016, we have opened up new regions to our customers including northern Greece; added new airline routes into the country and its many beautiful islands; and innovated with the launch of our two new own-brand concepts, Casa Cook and Cook’s Club.

“Our relationships with our own-brand hotel partners locally here in Greece are some of our most important and we hope to accelerate the growth in our own-brand hotel portfolio in Greece with the launch this spring of our hotel investment fund.

“We are keen to talk to potential partners who are looking for hotel management agreements and franchise arrangements as well as owners of hotels in prime sun and beach locations that we can acquire and refurbish before re-launching as one of our portfolio of eight hotel brands.

“With more than 1,000 employees and many valuable partners in Greece, we remain committed to grow sustainably to the benefit both of Thomas Cook and the local communities in which we live and work.”

Kountoura said: “Greece is a globally attractive destination 365 days a year, emerging in global travel trends as an outstanding choice for unique, truly authentic travel experiences in the Mediterranean and Europe.

“Thomas Cook is a key partner in the continued development of our world-leading tourism industry. We support and welcome new investment projects in the dynamically growing Greek tourism sector that enhance the experience and the overall quality of our tourist product.

“Our strategic partnership is important in further promoting new Greek destinations and expanding our year-round tourism offering, focusing on the benefits yielded for the local communities through sustainable tourism growth.”

Greece is also at the forefront of Thomas Cook’s sustainability drive.

The take up of the Travelife certification scheme – a supply chain management tool for hoteliers to improve their social, economic and environmental impact – is higher in Greece than in any other of the company’s destinations.

Fankhauser said: “Travelife helps to ensure that more of the benefits of the economic activity generated in destination, are felt here in Greece, which is why we are working hard toward 100 percent certification of all of our own-branded hotels.

“Our three own-operated hotels in Greece have held Travelife Gold accreditation for the last eight years and we are pleased to confirm our first Casa Cook property, in Rhodes, has been awarded Gold Travelife accreditation in June.”