Agents advised to look for alternative holidays before Thomas Cook failure

A homeworking agent has outlined how her organisation prepared for the collapse of Thomas Cook to put them “ahead of the curve”.

Laura Bennett joined the Personal Travel Agents at Midcounties Co-operative Travel in March after 15 years with Thomas Cook high street agencies.

She spoke as the Midcounties revealed findings from a satisfaction survey from the 160-strong homeworking travel division.

The communication received from the Walsall-based head office was credited for the company’s success in nurturing happy homeworkers, something that was put to the test during the Thomas Cook collapse.

Bennett said: “One of the concerns you have when you move from a retail agency to become a homeworking travel agent, is that you might feel slightly out on a limb with no physical team around you, particularly when something unprecedented like the Thomas Cook collapse happens.

More: Former Thomas Cook chief  asked government for ‘back up’ offers special discounts to Thomas Cook customers

“I would say that, particularly in the case of the Thomas Cook collapse, the complete opposite was true. Before and after the collapse, we couldn’t have been kept better informed by the head office team.

“Over the weekend before the collapse, we were advised to start looking at alternatives for customers who had a Thomas Cook booking with us, which allowed us to be really well prepared.

“When it happened, the head office team confirmed the news to us in the early hours of 23 September and by 7am I had re-booked holidays for 15 passengers.”

She added: “In the days that followed the collapse, the head office team put out daily live videos to us all, giving updates on the latest CAA calls and other developments that would help us to support our customers.

“My customers are so relieved they booked with a travel agent who has been so ahead of the curve.

“If there’s a silver lining to this crisis for the travel industry, it’s that the value of the travel agent is being recognised and it has given me and other agents the opportunity to really prove our worth.”

Overall support and service from the operational support team was rated nine or ten out of ten by three quarters of the 108 homeworkers surveyed – a record high in the six years that the Personal Travel Agents as Co-operative Travel has been in operation.

Sheena Whittle, head of the homeworking group, said: “The nature of homeworking means that regular and effective communication, both from the head office team and between agents, is key.  We strive to create a working environment where our homeworkers feel supported and nurtured as part of a team.”

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