Independent sector welcomes Cook-Co-op merger approval

Independent sector welcomes Cook-Co-op merger approval

Independent agents have welcomed the Competion Commission’s approval of the merger of Thomas Cook, The Co-operative Travel Group and Midlands Co-operative.

The watchdog gave the tie-up the green light today “without remedies,” meaning no shops will be forced to close.  The merger, which will create a chain of more than 1,200 outlets, is expected to be completed by the end of Thomas Cook’s financial year.

Hays Travel managing director John Hays, pictured above, said: “Orderly consolidation in the industry is a good thing.”

The move will not change the  product range sold through Hays Travel shops, he insisted, but will allow the group to promote itself as the largest independent travel agency in the country.

Thomas Cook aims to have 80% of its own product sold through in-house channels, which will include the shop network, websites, the Freedom Travel Group and Co-op’s Personal Travel Advisors.

Hays said: “Because they [Co-op Travel] will be less independent  it will benefit us as we will be the largest independent agency in the country and we will use that in our marketing. As far as our mix of business goes, it will not make any difference to us and it will be business as usual.”

Balwins Travel general manager Peter Ruck said the merger could be an opportunity for independent agents. He said: “When there is a Thomas Cook and Co-op Travel in one high street, one can only assume they’ll eventually close one and that means one less agency on the high street. There may be an opportunity for us to take business from people who don’t want to deal with a multiple.”

Andy Freeth, managing director of Travel 2, agreed: “This could be an opportunity for strong independents to gain a share of the market in that town, or they’ll take on the closed Co-op or Cook shops. I’ve spoken to a few agents who are strong in the regions and share that view.”

A spokesman for Virgin Holidays added: “The decision does not come as much of a surprise to us, and we’re looking forward to working with the new entity and building a similarly successful relationship to that we’ve enjoyed over the years.” 


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