Advantage chief executive John McEwan claims the merger of Thomas Cook and Co-operative Travel will help independent high-street retailers compete on product and objective customer advice.

The merger, which the Competition Commission approved today, will create the largest chain of travel agencies owned by one company on the high street.

McEwan said the move would result in Co-op Travel becoming less independent and offering less choice to consumers than it traditionally has been able to offer.

He said: “From Advantage’s point of view, it gives us an opportunity. The Co-op for a long time has positioned itself as an independent travel retailer with objective retail advice. The fact that they will be part of Thomas Cook means it will be more difficult for them to demonstrate to customers that they are independent.”

His comments echoed those of Hay Travel managing director John Hays, who joined other independent business owners in broadly welcoming the deal’s approval.

McEwan also predicted Advantage agents would sell more independent operators’ products as a result of the merger.

He said: “We are already a leading seller of specialist tour operator products in the UK but we will become more important to these operators as time goes by.

“Although the Co-op will no doubt continue to offer a broad product range, the vertically integrated model means they will sell more Thomas Cook products and that might impact on the level of sales of independent operators over time. This is where we can step in and offer more support.”

McEwan added he was confident members of the Advantage consortium would continue to sell the same amount of Thomas Cook’s tour operator products. “We have a good relationship with the Thomas Cook group and that relationship will continue. We will continue to get access to their products.”