Sunny Heart Travel hopes to be selling through agents this summer after it launches to consumers next week with a sloth mascot promoting ‘stress free holidays’.
The new online tour operator, staffed by 10 ex-Thomas Cook retail staff in its call centre, goes live on March 1, initially as a direct-sell business.
Its advertising mascot Sunny the Sloth (pictured) will be used as the face of the company to promote hassle-free trips tailored to individuals’ needs, allowing clients to ‘sit back’ while the company takes care of the booking.
Chief executive Steve Bentzen, former Thomas Cook IT programme manager, said the company planned to complete all bookings initially over the telephone, rather than online, because of the continued travel uncertainty and to ensure customers understood their booking options.
The operator’s call centre team will provide a full concierge service to advise and guide customers, with staff briefed daily on the latest government guidelines.
“People will be able to go on the booking journey online but at the end they will be asked for their contact details so we can speak to them to make the booking. We are doing this because we don’t want a repeat of 2020 where holidays were booked then cancelled. No-one wins in that scenario,” he said.
He said that working with the trade “was not that far off”, adding: “I definitely hope that by the summer we will be working with travel agents.”
The operator was born out of the Thomas Cook collapse in 2019, with its name derived from Cook’s ‘sunny heart’ logo. It was originally due to launch in autumn last year. The launch was postponed until this month due to the Covid pandemic and is now set for March 1.
The operator will sell holidays worldwide and has deals in place with 84 destination management companies.
Bentzen said many of Cook’s former partners overseas were now working with Sunny Heart Travel and providing ‘fantastic deals’.
It will focus promotions on destinations where it has strong offers, including the Canaries, Turkey, Egypt, mainland Spain, Tunisia, the Caribbean, Australia and Thailand. Currently it plans to offer holidays departing from May 17.
Despite the difficult market, Bentzen hopes to break even in the first year.