A survey of Aito travel agents has found the vast majority will switch sell from Thomas Cook if the retail merger with The Co-operative Travel goes ahead.

The merger is currently being probed by the Competition Commission that is looking into the impact it will have on the high street and in the distribution of third party product.

The Aito Specialist Travel Agents survey found 86% of respondents would switch from Cook if the deal goes ahead and 77% of members do not support the planned merger.

Oliver Broad, chairman of Aito Specialist Travel Agents, said: “Our members already sell away from the big boys when appropriate for individual customer needs, but this merger will only reinforce this further and the survey results show that Aito agent members will do what they can to avoid supporting such a large player in the market place. 

“We have recently seen members de-racking Complete Cruise Solution products after they cut commission and I expect the same will happen with Thomas Cook products next.”

Peter Buckell, managing director of Global Lounge Travel in Norwich, a member of the AITO agents’ panel, added:

“Thomas Cook already controls wholesalers, an airline and an extensive online and retail inventory. This limits consumer choice dramatically. 

“It is also anti-competitive, as they will undercut any independent operator or agent. It seems that they intend to eliminate as much competition as possible and that their aim is to be the ‘Tesco of travel’ within three years.”
Despite the opposition to the merger the survey did find Aito agents expect it to benefit as a result because they will be able to underline their independence and expertise.

This means Aito as a group has not submitted its view to the commission. However Broad said: “We have a really diverse membership, hence the mixed reaction from them.

“Some independents welcome the merger as their independent status will become more relevant to consumers. We are, however, assisting members who wish to address the issues with the Competition Commission on an individual basis.”

Comments on the issues identified by the Competition Commission must be submitted by this Friday (May 13) with a ruling on the merger expected by August 16.