EasyJet is to relaunch its holidays product at the end of the year, with 100 destinations and more than 500 hotels.
As the brand was confirming its ABTA membership, former Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser faced questions about the company’s liquidation by MPs.
Writing in The Telegraph, Johan Lundgren, EasyJet CEO, said: “Following the sad demise of Thomas Cook, many people have told me this seems like a pretty bad time to enter this difficult market.
“Many are also saying that the package holiday is now an outdated concept which has no place in the lives of modern consumers. It is probably true to say the package holiday in its traditional sense of a fixed seven or 14 day holiday booked through a high street travel agency, met by a rep with a clipboard, is on its way out.
“But the fact is, sales of holiday packages have grown faster than the economy every year for the past 10 years. It is the way that customers are taking holidays that is changing and the industry needs to change to accommodate this.Customer needs are different now. We know people are more adventurous and want to go to a wider range of destinations, they want more flexibility and they want to be offered a bespoke holiday from a company that understands their requirements.
“The way that customers are buying holidays has also changed. The traditional role of the high street travel agent was to help customers navigate through the seemingly endless holiday options.
“Rapid development in technology and AI, combined with a focus on data now allows the customer to find holidays suited to them on line or through their mobile.
“Data and digital can help enhance customer experience and provide insight into the destinations they are visiting – a key factor considering the growth in experiential travel. Holidays companies which invest in the technology to support modern customer interactions, built on and driven by data using AI, will be uniquely able to create highly personalised holidays.”
Earlier this year Ryanair pulled back from its plan to become ‘the Amazon of travel’, closing its Ryanair Holidays business. Ryanair said: “Ryanair Holidays is discontinuing its service. It is no longer possible to book a package on Ryanair Holidays. However, all previous bookings are unaffected and will be fulfilled as planned.” The product was launched in December 2016, offering, the group said, “Aldi-style discount holidays”.
Ryanair did, however, announced a partnership with Siteminder, to give European hotels access to Ryanair Rooms, the platform which gives hotel guests 10% of the hotel booking price back in flight credit, to use against Ryanair flights.
EasyJet said that there might be opportunities to include some hotels which had previously been working with Thomas Cook.
In an appearance before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Fankhauser said: “If I could start from scratch, then I would have probably even pushed more on the pace, but it was difficult for me to find the balance between pace and the money you need to transform such a big business at pace.
“We could have sold part of it, we had offers for parts of it but none of them would have given enough value for the shareholders and stakeholders that they would have agreed on that.”
Fankhauser said that the company only had one meeting with a government minister in the build-up to the company’s collapse, adding that, if the government had provided GBP200m to secure the bailout from Fosun, then the tour company would have been saved.
It was thought that Triton Partners was in advanced talks about acquiring Thomas Cook’s Scandinavian business, as had been reported several months ago, before the recapitalisation effort driven by Fosun.
Hays Travel has also acquired Thomas Cook’s entire UK retail estate, comprising 555 stores across the country. John and Irene Hays, managing director & group chair, Hays Travel, said: “Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand employing talented people. We look forward to working with many of them.”
HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: Fankhauser’s appearance in front of the select committee was an unedifying feast for those who, to quote Boris Johnson, think along the lines of “f*ck business”. Accusations of not having done enough and attempts to make the board look money grubbing and overpaid, amidst calls to give back bonuses, when the word from those closest to Thomas Cook was that they had battled hard to save the business, pulled down by debt accrued not on their watch. And all without the help of government.
But the good news to attempt to claw from that is that package holidays aren’t dead, long live package holidays, which will be reassuring for EasyJet, which is making another pass at leveraging its brand. For those hotels caught up in Thomas Cook, another reassuring sign.