NEXT week a new British tour operator is going to be launched in Manchester and a large number of Balearic hoteliers have welcomed the birth of a new market at a time when the travel industry as a whole is suffering at the hands of the global credit crunch.
The new tour operator is the result of nearly seven years of talks and eight months of hard work and brings together over a century of business and tourism expertise.
Co-operative Holidays is going to be the name of the new tour operator and is a new joint venture with 45-year-old tour operator Cosmos Holidays and its airline Monarch.
The Director of Purchasing and Operations for Monarch and Cosmos Holidays, Hugh Morgan told the Bulletin in Palma yesterday that the new operator has been warmly welcomed by hoteliers in the Balearics and elsewhere in Spain and the industry as a whole is excited about the launch, especially during a major credit crisis.
The Co-operative has over 800 travel agents and a further 800 home workers selling holidays - they sell over 1.3 million holidays for the various operators per year. It employs over 110'000 people across the country, it's the biggest cooperative in Europe and has an annual turn over of around 14 billion pounds. It has the largest chain of independent travel agents in the UK but it does not have a tour operator.
What we've decided to do is create a synergy and from next week, Co-operative Travel agents will be selling the new Co-operative Holiday packages for 2010.
They've got excellent, tried and tested retail skills while we've got over 45 years of expertise as a tour operator, Morgan explained.
We also respect and value the Co-operative's commitment to ethical, sustainable and honest trading, he added.
Katy Sayburn, the Head of Purchasing and Operations for Cosmos Holidays and Monarch said that the hoteliers are also impressed by the fact Co-operative Holidays will have its own airline. It's an extra guarantee for the hotel sector, she said.
Monarch is operating 1.2 million return flight seats between the UK and Spain this summer, 120'000 of those to Minorca, 110'000 here to Majorca and 56'000 to Ibiza. Cosmos Holidays will continue to operate as usual, with its holidays available through all the usual outlets, but Co-operative Holiday packages are going to be exclusively sold by the 1'600 Co-operative Travel agents, said Morgan. We're going to start by carrying around 100'000 package holiday passengers next year and aim to increase our lift to around 350'000 over the next four to five years. We've enough experience in all sectors to know we need to takesthings one step at a time, especially under this current economic climate. And, we're going to keep travel simple, no hidden and extra surcharges on our aircraft. Free 20 kilo luggage limits and children under 12 will go free. We want to get back to the traditional values of package family holidays to Britain's most popular destinations like Spain and in particular the Balearics, Morgan explained. So, we want to handle sensible numbers in order to get this right, he stressed.
Sayburn, who is in charge of global accommodation sourcing and purchasing for Cosmos and Co-operative Holidays, said that the Balearic hotel sector has welcomed the arrival of a new British tour operator.
Until now the market has been controlled by Tui, Thomas Cook and even Cosmos. Hoteliers have not liked being controlled by so few and they welcome a new operator which will give them more choice and more room to operate. Traditionally, it has been the tour operators after the hoteliers, we're finding that the hoteliers are now coming to us - they want to be involved in the new Co-operative Holidays venture, she said.
The 2010 brochure will also be presented next week at the Manchester launch with prices the same as this year. Hoteliers have realised that cash is king, price is everything. It's not the fault of the Balearics that slightly less British holiday makers are coming this summer, it's because confidence is very low in Britain. Everybody's worried about their jobs, especially now they've seen the country's top bankers and politicians losing theirs. People are frightened. So many are leaving booking to the last minute, if at all, and then the cheaper destinations are proving more popular. The Balearics has just got to hang in there, it will turn around. It's a great destination, provides excellent products and has much more to offer than some of the Egyptian or Turkish beach destinations. It's not an easy time but those hoteliers who listened to us back in October are full, those who took a gamble and held out on price are the ones suffering now, said Morgan. We've offered hoteliers a new market for next year and they know that we're a reliable operation with years of experience. Once Britain's got its confidence back, they'll come back to the Balearics, he added.