Leading retailers predict agents will increasingly turn to “higher-risk” dynamic packaging to fill the product gap left by Thomas Cook, the UK’s former third-biggest operator.

Writing for Travel Weekly, Alistair Rowland, Midcounties Co-operative chief retail officer for specialist business, fears the decline in availability of mainstream packages could drive agents to put together “more-complex and higher-risk dynamically packaged holidays”.

Tui and Jet2holidays remain the two biggest operators, while easyJet Holidays is poised to expand with a relaunch in December. Dnata also plans a 2020 short-haul charter programme and On the Beach’s Classic Package Holidays recently began selling through agents.

Rowland, who is Abta chairman, called for a third major operator. He said: “The addition of a third competitor would be helpful. Dynamic packaging is getting harder rather than easier and to have multiple independent agents selling the same Jet2holidays product is not ideal. It will mean going back to the days of a high street price war.”

Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes said the consortium was “investing heavily” in its dynamic packaging system to offer a point of difference.

“It definitely is a concern to only have two key players in the mainstream area. Our focus is to make sure we have the right product range. New operators are coming in but Advantage Holidays can give us another option that gives clients security and flexibility,” she said.

Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, said: “Our model allows us to tailor-make holidays. Cook’s collapse does leave a gap in long-haul, however.”

Former Airtours chief Steve Endacott, speaking in a ‘Pubcast’ with Ian Brooks, non-executive director of Arena Travel, stressed independent agents could not rely purely on Jet2holidays and Tui.

He said: “[Jet2holidays and Tui] will drive as much direct to their channels as they can. If they perceive the independent channels weak, they will cut commissions.”

Simon Morgan, chief executive of Tailor Made Travel, said his agents were already doing more business with smaller players and the agency would have its own Atol by the end of the year. He said: “We have gone from doing next to no sales with Classic to £1 million in a quarter.

“I’d rather have six or seven mid-sized operators than two to three supersized operators. The commercial terms are more favourable. [Dynamic packaging] will be a fundamental part of our business in the years to come.”

Oliver Garner, chief executive of Classic Package Holidays, said the trade’s appetite for the brand since its launch had been “incredibly strong”.

Last month, after sealing the deal for Thomas Cook’s shops, Hays Travel owner John Hays said: “There’s plenty of product.”