Thomas Cook has provoked anger among independent agents by withdrawing its Web Match facility, which allowed agents to compete with discounted prices on its website.
The policy enabled agents to match the reduced holiday prices online and take a lower level of commission. However, a number of agents have been informed by their consortium that the travel giant has scrapped the policy.
A Thomas Cook spokesman confirmed the move and said: “We continue to support agents as this is an important channel for our business, but we’re always reviewing these relationships and the changing needs of our business.”
Some agents believe the removal of the policy is evidence that the operator is failing to support the trade. Wigan-based Little Travel Shop owner Linda Welch said: “We are just a brochure rack for Thomas Cook now. At least with Web Match we still had the chance to sell the holiday and take less commission. Now we have nowhere to go.”
Paul Stowe, director of Stowaway Travel, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, said the removal of Web Match would help drive agents towards using independent operators or becoming operators themselves. “I’m disappointed in Thomas Cook – like other big operators they are discounting heavily on the web and knocking the bottom out of the market. They are driving agents away from their business. We go to the small operators or contract the hotels directly instead.”
Kinver Travel owner Sue Foxall, based in Stourbridge, said she was surprised by the move. “It’s interesting that they’re doing that at the time of the Which? Holiday survey (which scored the operator second to last for customer satisfaction) – they need all the business they can get.”
However, Ilfracombe-based Somewhere2travel2 director Diane Denney said it would help spur on agents to explore other alternatives. “It will help agents as they will focus on what their model is and see if discounting really works for them. We have started charging for consultations and that is working very well for us,” she said.