Thomas Cook is to use reference numbers to improve co-ordination between sales channels.

The company said customer service would also improve as holidaymakers could use the number when booking through a Thomas Cook shop, call centre or online.

Speaking at a Toward Seminar, commercial director Ian Derbyshire said customers often search online in the evening and call into an agency the next day. “By using reference numbers customers can go into an agency and start off where they finished the night before,” he said.

Meanwhile, Derbyshire said traditional operators would strengthen their position in the dynamic packaging market. Research by Mintel has claimed the independent holiday sector would grow by 45% to almost 31 million holidays by 2001, while packages will remain stagnant at 16 million holidays annually.

“Thomas Cook will see big growth in the independent sector but not be at the expense of package holidays,” he said.

The percentage of package holidays sold online increased from 16% in 2004/05 to 21% in 2005/06, while independent online bookings rose from 58% in 2004/05 to 64% in 2005/06.