Sunny Heart Travel is to go live in February 2021 after putting its initial launch plan on hold due to the second wave of Covid-19.
The new online tour operation, staffed mainly by former Thomas Cook staff, had been poised to launch in the autumn of this year but delayed plans due to the second lockdown in England.
The operator’s name is derived from the ‘sunny heart’ logo associated with the former Thomas Cook, which collapsed in September 2019. Its strapline is ‘Great Holidays Start with A Sunny Heart’.
Steve Bentzen, chief executive, said the company had used lockdown 2.0 to improve its website, refresh its logo, and forge partnerships with more than 50 destination management companies in resorts in readiness for its 2021 launch.
He said: “We put our launch on hold as we didn’t want to be live with operational costs and not taking bookings.
“We had always planned to move to the next stage, phase two, with better technology so we decided to go on to that before launch with a cached system so search results are now almost instant.”
The website will be bookable online but also take bookings via the phone. It will be launched as a direct consumer site initially but plans to work with agents longer term.
It is in the process of recruiting a small reservation team, most of which are also likely to be ex-Thomas Cook employees, to take telephone bookings.
The operator has teamed up with a new website provider, Digital Travel Marketing Group, to provide a “superfast cache search” so that consumers will get holiday search results almost instantly.
The new front-end system will link into the operator’s back-office system provided by Traveltek.
The company has partnered with creative agency UNBXD to launch a more modern logo ready for its official launch next year, which modernises its initial Sunny Heart ‘sunglasses’ logo.
Bentzen said the company had also been working with new companies in resort which will provide transfers, excursions and holiday rep services to clients.
He added: “We have been inundated by DMCs who had worked previously with Thomas Cook but had not really had partnerships with UK companies since. They will provide our transfers and reps in resort and local excursions.
“Some customers have said they like rep meetings in resorts so we will make a call on that.”
The operator’s new partners in resort include Kartaca Turkey, TenTravel in the Canaries, iTravex in Spain and DMCs in each Greek island.
It has also partnered with TTS in Tunisia, Two Ways Egypt and Distinct Destinations in India.