Fosun is understood to be in discussions with suppliers and hoteliers as it prepares to relaunch Thomas Cook as an online travel agent.
The Chinese conglomerate, formally Thomas Cook’s largest shareholder, is planning to apply to the CAA for an Atol licence. Initial conversations about the OTA joining Abta are also understood to have taken place.
Travel Weekly believes 15 people are employed in the new venture, including former Thomas Cook group strategy and technology director Alan French as chief executive; former head of sales, e-commerce and marketing, Phil Gardner, as chief commercial officer; and former finance executive Raj Sharma as chief financial officer.
Fosun Tourism Group, which also owns Club Med, acquired the Thomas Cook brand, domain names, apps and social media accounts for £11 million in November. The deal included Cook’s hotel brands Casa Cook and Cook’s Club.
A digital expert told Travel Weekly: “Even though the dust hasn’t settled on the collapse of Thomas Cook in the UK, the brand is still extremely favoured elsewhere, particularly in Asia. And even in the UK, the natural traffic the Thomas Cook name will be getting still is massive. It’s cheaper to redesign, rebuild and redress a brand as big as Thomas Cook than start from scratch.”
However, the new Thomas Cook OTA is expected to operate like a digital start-up that ramps up over time. One well-placed commentator said: “Fosun has big ambitions, opportunity and money, but the team will have to create milestones and deliver on them to unlock it.
“They will have to earn and justify the investment – but, if they do, I can see [staff] growing rapidly to 50, then to 80-100. This is not going to be a small venture. Fosun has big plans and is keen to create synergies across its various leisure brands under the hero brand of Thomas Cook.”
Last week, Fosun appointed Guo Qing as co-president and president of its tourism destination development and operation management centre.
The group has created a “lifestyle platform company”, a division of which is Thomas Cook Tourism (UK), a company it registered in September.
An industry expert said: “There’s no room in the UK market for another tour operator – Tui and Jet2holidays are filling the gap. There is probably room for another On the Beach and Loveholidays…another direct-to-consumer online retailer.”
A launch date for the Thomas Cook OTA has yet to be confirmed.