Thomas Cook has joined other industry heavyweights in urging the government to support all sectors of travel – not just domestic tourism.
The call from co-chief executive Ian Ailles comes despite Cook selling more than one million UK breaks and year and being official short break provider for the London Olympics.
Ailles, speaking as Cook launched its largest ever multi-media advertising campaign (see video below) just a day after the £4 million government-backed VisitEngland push was announced, said:
“Having two formidable players talking about travel at the same time of year can only mean good things for the industry, encouraging people to book holidays now, whether it is an overseas break or a UK one.
“UK holidays are part of our heritage, with the first excursion from Leicester to Loughborough organised by Thomas Cook in 1841.
"Today, we are the UK’s largest retailer of domestic holidays and sell over one million UK breaks every year, as well as being the official provider of short breaks to the London 2012 Olympic Games and providing more trips to UK sports events than anyone else.
“As a retailer of travel we provide our customers with the holiday that is right for them – be that one at home, abroad or both.”
But he added: “We would though, like the government to acknowledge that the outbound tourism sector is just as important to the UK economy as the domestic operators are.”
Thomas Cook Sport is offering 20.12% off Premier League match breaks at the start of next season as part of the VisitEngland campaign while Flexibletrips is offering 20 weeks at 12% discount off the total price of any UK accommodation, starting tomorrow (Friday).
Research by Cook shows that despite the continuing squeeze on consumers’ disposable income, a foreign holiday is still their number one spending priority this year. Ailles said: “An overseas holiday has moved back up to be our number one priority, with a third of people placing it top of their shopping list for 2012.”
His comments follow Abta, Tui UK and Virgin Holidays joining together to attack the government’s domestic holidays promotion as misguided and costly.
The Cook ad campaign promotes destinations in the UK and overseas and runs from today (Thursday) until the end of May.
Carrying the theme ‘It Is A Wonderful World. Explore It With Us,’ the 40-second advert is set to the song "Wonderful World" by Joey Ramone and will feature on TV, radio, online, in travel agencies and social media.
Cook is also running cinema advertising for the first time in three years with the ad appearing over Easter. The advert will make its TV debut during Emmerdale on ITV and Location Location on Channel 4 this evening.
Cook is also running its biggest Facebook competition, designed to find a winner who embodies the same exploring spirit as the founder of the organisation, and someone who wants to share their experiences with others.
To enter, people must upload a photo of themselves to the Thomas Cook Facebook page, which shows them enjoying their ‘wonderful world’ and depicts their exploring spirit.
Co-chief executive Phil Aird-Mash said: “While it is unprecedented for a travel company to embark on such a wide-reaching campaign at this time of year, for us it means we’ll really stand out and our voice will be clearly heard.
“We are well known as a summer sun operator but our DNA is as a retailer and we wanted to make sure that we’re just as well known for this too.
“This isn’t just about an ad campaign though; this is the first step toward us cementing our position in customers’ minds as the market leader in travel – not just because of our name, but because of our range and choice of products, trust, quality and the great value we offer.”
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