Greece looks set to become a key battleground in 2012 with both Thomas Cook and Cosmos promising to ramp up their activities in the destination.

Thomas Cook head of mainstream Ian Ailles told TTA Worldchoice delegates at this weekend’s overseas conference that Manos was a brand that had been “under developed” in recent years.

And addressing the conference via video Monarch Group business development director Stuart Jackson said it was expanding its Greece portfolio. At the turn of the year Monarch ended a flights deal with Olympic Holidays for what was believed to be 250,000 peak season seats, bringing them in-house to support the Cosmos tour operation.

Jackson said Cosmos was trading well ahead of the market for summer 2012 at 20% up, against the overall market that was down 1%. He said TTA Worldchoice agents were 37% up for Cosmos.

He told agents Cosmos currently sold around 20% through independent agents but that the Monarch group did not put a cap on this and it was limited only “by the desire of agents to sell it”.

Cosmos believes it is gaining ground on rivals as agents look for an alternative to selling holidays provided by the big two and want the reassurance of a well known brand.  Despite the good start to 2012 trading he warned: “The industry has gone through a difficult period and that will continue. 2012 will be an even tougher year.

“During tough times it’s key that we select our partners correctly and work with people we know are going to around for the long term.” Ailles also reported that 2012 had got off to a good start although he too warned the economic backdrop meant that the next 12 months would be tough.

He praised rival Tui for its performance, saying it was benefitting from some of the changes made by its former management team. “It’s not easy to turn a tour operator around quickly. They have had the benefit of a couple of years [of doing this] and that’s helped them this year.

“I anticipate that some other tour operators as we get to the end of the season and the end of the cashflow cycle will fail. The good news is summer 2012 has got off to a great start. We are significantly ahead of where we were for Summer 2011. It’s about having the right product in the right market at the right time.”