The Midcounties Co-operative has signed a joint venture with Vertical Group, giving the agency group its own bedstock and in-house tour operator.
The agency has launched Co-op Rooms following its deal with Vertical’s Bed Bank accommodation-only provider.
This is due to be followed in September by a Co‑operative Holidays brand, which could eventually be sold through third‑party agents.
The Co-operative group is the senior partner in the joint venture and has an option to become the 100% owner after three years.
The tie-up includes 300 of Bed Bank’s own contracts, and the hotels feed will be augmented by a major, non-competing accommodation-only supplier.
Alistair Rowland, Midcounties group general manager for travel, said: “We now have our own bed bank, and not before time. But the more exciting thing is integration with Co-operative Holidays, which gives us a seamless packaging device for our distribution. It will become very significant very quickly.”
The deal will see product sold on Co‑op’s own website and the supply has been integrated with the group’s Traveltek iSell agency platform.
Peter Healey, Vertical chief executive, said early signs were encouraging, with Co-op agents already becoming confident in selling more upmarket product.
“So far it’s performing strongly. This is the start of a good relationship,” he said.
Healey added that the venture was heavily supported by the hoteliers with which Vertical Group works.
He said Midcounties agents would be given the chance to see properties for themselves on fam trips to inspire them to sell more.
“We are going on a journey with Co‑op staff,” said Healey.
“Our experience is, if you take agents to see four or five hotels that they would never go to see under their own steam, immediately the sales start coming through.”
Midcounties previously worked with On Holiday Group’s bed bank, Holiday Brokers, providing its agents with exclusive deals, but the supplier went out of business last year.
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