Thomas Cook is to align its Airtours tour operating brand more closely with its Co-operative retail estate and independent agents.
The Airtours brand will be the focus of the Co-op’s turn of year campaign and will be the brand promoted in the Co-op shop windows.
“The imagery used from December 27th in our Co-op stores is different to that we’re going to use in our Thomas Cook shops. You will see Airtours promoted,” said managing director Chris Mottershead.
“The great opportunity with Airtours, is that it’s a major tour operating brand yet it doesn’t have a presence on the high street or online.
“So while, if you’re a Co-op or an independent agent, you’re happy to sell Thomson, you’re not necessarily happy to promote it. But the Co-ops and the independents will enjoy promoting the Airtours brand,” he said.
“We believe the Co-op and independent agents can really get behind this and grow it. It’s a great way of being able to promote a tour operator brand without it being competitive.”
Mottershead promised Airtours’ prices would remain exactly the same whether booked through a travel agent or online.
He added: “Airtours has shrunk dramatically since the 1990s when it was the largest holiday company in the UK – when I was the MD incidentally.
“But even though little has been done to promote it recently, it’s doing really well and represents about 40% of the group’s sales. So we are now going to get everyone behind it – this is a clear statement that it’s here to stay.
“It has a strong position in the market. It’s very much our value for money brand. It has strength in the north but it’s actually spread all over the UK and we’re going to give it the boost and the kick it needs to remind people about it and grow volumes.”
Mottershead said he’d had discussions with many of the major independent agents about promoting Airtours, with the likes of Barrhead Travel and Hays Travel agreeing to push it.
“It’s been an open door in terms of discussions with third party agents,” he said.
And he added that with all the security incidents and repatriation this year, he said consumers were looking to travel with the protection of major tour operators like Airtours, part of the Thomas Cook Group.
Mottershead revealed that the next stage of the Airtours plan was to give the brand a refresh.
“My intention is to give Airtours a whole new look and feel for summer 2017,” he said.
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