Agents have berated Thomas Cook for a pricing trial that has called into question its commitment to price parity.
They say Cook is offering some hotels cheaper online, meaning they cannot match the operator on price and are forced to discount and sacrifice commission.
Shelly Taylor, owner of Taylor Travel in Prestatyn, north Wales, said a Cook holiday for a family of four to the Dominican Republic was £6,233 on her agent portal, but £5,885 if booked direct online.
“The customer didn’t feel comfortable booking online, but had seen the price, so I had to discount,” she said. “I lost £380 in commission.”
Taylor said Cook’s pricing policy was unclear. “I had one where it was £400 cheaper online in June, but the same price online and on my system in October.
“Some 30%-40% of hotels are cheaper online, but it feels random. I don’t understand why they’re treating independents like this when they’re shutting shops. It’s alienating a national sales force. So many [other independents] won’t advertise them or rack their brochures. I’ve not gone that far, but I understand why people have.”
Phil Gardner, Thomas Cook sales and e-commerce director, said: “We are trialling different price models across our channels for selected destinations, as part of a review of our omni-channel approach.”
Other independents said quotes for Egypt and Mexico were cheaper online than via trade channels.
Bailey’s Travel owner Chris Bailey urged fellow independents to “sell something else”. He said: “I can see why they’ve done it. They are committed to bedstock and have flights to fill. It’s short-term expediency but could be the start of a downward spiral.”
Bailey said his Cook sales had dropped in the past 18 months, while sales of Jet2holidays had risen, despite the latter not offering price parity. “It’s about transparency,” he said.
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