Thomas Cook is in talks with Collette about the future of its tours business following the operator’s decision to pull out of the UK after 20 years.

Collette, which has run Thomas Cook Tours since 2014,  is to close its UK business at the end of April 2020 after failing to hit targets for several years. It said “fewer than 20 employees” faced redundancy.

The operator will continue to take bookings until then, including for Thomas Cook Tours.

Thomas Cook sales and e‑commerce director Phil Gardner said: “We continue to have a positive relationship with Collette and are working with their team.”

Observers blamed Collette’s poor UK performance on its failure to adapt to the UK market and claimed it would have been a “huge wrench to admit defeat after 20 years” for chief executive Dan Sullivan. In comparison, Collette has been “hugely successful” in its native US market.

Collette to close UK business

Collette UK sales team members Simeon Douglas and Neil Sehmbhy, alongside head of partnerships in the UK, Stephen Mills, are understood to have left their jobs last Friday (March 8). Their departures follow those of Lisa Rhodes and Tony Mahoney in December. The office and call centre in Uxbridge will close next April.

The move comes less than a year after Collette expanded its UK sales team to boost bookings from agents, who account for 90% of UK business. Collette is licensed to carry just under 1,900 passengers a year in the UK, according to the CAA.

Jeff Roy, executive vice-president of Collette, said: “After consecutive years of performing below our targets, as well as the uncertainty in the UK market relating to Brexit, we identified this as an appropriate time to remove our physical presence in the UK to redirect global resources towards our highest-performing businesses.”

Collette’s US and Australian business had continued to grow “while the UK market has struggled”, he added.

The company, which aims to focus on its US, Canada and Australian businesses instead, is considering selling its tours in the UK on a wholesale basis.