Thomas Cook’s plan to charge raises a host of questions, says Gemma Antrobus, chairman Aito Specialist Travel Agents

As a working mother I wholeheartedly agree that a holiday, wherever that may be in the world, is absolutely essential in bringing a family together.

Parents are working harder than ever to provide their families with experiences and memories that they can cherish forever.

As travel professionals, we see first-hand how hard it can be to find the perfect holiday to suit all the individuals in a family.

But our job is to help them to maximise their time and budgets in the best way possible, so they can enjoy each other’s company and reconnect.

Although it didn’t say anything new, I applaud Thomas Cook for conducting research into family values.

Their idea of including boxes of books in communal areas to encourage families to read together gets a big thumbs up from me, as do their new tablecloths for families, to encourage interaction and conversation over meal times.

Poor idea

But sunbed charging? Really?

To use the research as a thinly veiled excuse to start charging families – and couples too, don’t forget – for reserving sunbeds on holiday is poor.

This is especially so when you consider that these hotels created the situation in the first place by not having a policy – or the confidence – to remove towels from sunbeds that weren’t being used.

Cook’s own research states that 63% of respondents wanted to be able to ask their children what they would like to do on holiday, rather than tell them.

For anyone with school-age children, I’m sure you’ll agree that prepaid sunbeds in a guaranteed location will not be top of any child’s list of priorities.

They will want their parents in the pool playing with them, getting involved with activities and going on excursions, not sitting on sunbeds and disengaging from the world around them.

Shades of meaning

And don’t get me started on protecting our children’s skin from the harsh rays of the sun. Will there be an additional cost for shade?

Will all prepaid sunbeds come with umbrellas? Will those who don’t prepay have any access to sun or shade at all?

And what if I don’t like the people sat in the next sunbed to me – can I move or get a refund? It opens up a whole set of questions.

And how will this idea be policed? Will we start seeing burly security staff lurking by the poolside, checking if guests are on the right bed?

How will hotels deal with guests using beds that they haven’t paid for? Will they be physically manhandled out of them?

It makes me very glad I’m not a Thomas Cook resort employee or rep this summer season!

Spending quality time with your family does not revolve around the position of your sunbed. And to use this research/psychology to profiteer doesn’t sit well with me.

The independent travel companies that I know work hard to maximise every penny that their clients are spending, not to find excuses to charge them more.