Thomas Cook insists it wants indie agents to earn more selling its holidays, despite confidential sales figures indicating commission cuts have drastically weakened support.
Asked about April’s commission cut, Cook’s UK boss Salman Syed said he valued third-party agents.
Speaking at last week’s ITT Conference, he said: “I want our partners to make more money. But we want them to do that by selling more of our concept hotels, more of our differentiated product and more ancilliaries. It is not our intention to pay agents less.”
However, the commission cut prompted an “immediate and extensive” backlash from indie agents, according to a source.
Figures seen by Travel Weekly reveal Cook sales for this winter and next summer through independents last week were down by as much as 40%.
The picture is less stark for summer 2015, although sales through indies were down by a higher percentage than in Cook’s own retail channels last week and for the season to date.
Sources say sales plummeted in the weeks after Cook cut commission and have not recovered.
Jenny Jackson, a homeworker for Travel-PA, said: “If you are going to cut commission, you go to the bottom of the pecking order.
“We supported Cook through its problems and get stabbed in the back.”
Jackson added significant discounting via vouchers on Thomas Cook’s website had also made it harder to compete.
Miles Morgan, owner of Miles Morgan Travel, said: “Any agent who sees one of the big two as a key partner is deluding themselves. There are plenty of other agent-friendly operators.”
Stefanie Berk, Cook’s product and yield director, said: “We recognise the importance of third-party distribution, which forms part of our plans for the foreseeable future.
“However, we have made significant changes to our business in recent times, such as the realignment of our principal brands and introduction of a new City Breaks programme.
“In line with these changes, the time is now right to adjust commission rates for third party agents and place a new emphasis on driving up retail partners’ performance and rewarding them for volume.
“We have enjoyed a constructive dialogue with our partners, but we accept that there has been some negative feedback from third party agents too. We want to stress the opportunities for extra earnings if agents support strategic or tactical product initiatives, and we will look to work closer with third party agents over the summer.”
Thomas Cook added it confidentially shares an overview of sales with third party agents to gauge the market. It said “any figures used in isolation to provide an indicator of overall independent performance would not be representative of sales as whole and would therefore be misleading”.
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