The Co-operative Travel business cannot risk a repeat of the breakdown in relations that followed Thomson Holidays’ commission cuts two years ago, managing director Mike Greenacre has admitted.
The group recently renegotiated a commercial deal with Thomson for sales through its network of just over 400 high-street agencies to fill a sales “void” left from cutting ties when the operator slashed agency payments in January 2006.
Greenacre said: “We cannot put ourselves in that risky position again. For us as a distributor it’s important to have control of content. If we continue to strengthen that relationship with operators then we lessen the risk we need to take as a tour operator.”
He revealed that no longer working with Thomson had had a negative impact on trading. “We did not retain all the customers we thought we would. It’s like not having Heinz baked beans on your shelf.”
Part of the reason for the new deal was the merger of First Choice and Thomson, he said. “It would be silly to have a relationship with First Choice and not Thomson. Thomas Cook is still our number one operator but it suited us as much as it suited them (Thomson) to come back to the table.”
Thomas Cook director of trade relations Marc Bennett said it did not have an issue with the new deal. “If we have to fight a bit harder then we are prepared to do so,” he said.