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This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Wednesday 23 November 2011

We’re Not Even Booking It

So Thomas Cook are in trouble. No-one should be surprised. The days when folks would visit their local travel agent to sort their holidays are gone, swept away by the Net, low cost carriers, and an increasing appetite for D-i-Y trips away. After all, what’s the point in being just another tourist surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Boventry ...

Seriously though, Cooks should have seen this coming, and years ago. To actually see either of their two shops in Crewe with more than a couple of punters visiting is unusual nowadays. And, other than “holiday products”, for which read package tours, travel insurance and foreign currency, there is precious little else that these outlets can arrange.

Want to fly somewhere? Well, they can book you on some low cost carriers such as EasyJet, but it will cost more than if you do it yourself. They aren’t able to access Opodo, so those scheduled flights at reasonable prices are out – unless, again, you book it. Once upon a time, travel agents could book rail travel for you. Not any more, they can’t.

Didn't Thomas Cook it to get here ...

On-line booking sites, where you can browse flights, hotels, transfers, excursions, and most importantly get real-world information and feedback about possible destinations, have over the past decade given so much power over travel and holiday choices to the people who actually do the travelling, have rendered the High Street travel agent redundant.

Even areas where you might think the package would score well, such as providing transfers from airports to resorts, can be done independently: you can arrange a minibus share or exclusive car to and from airports around the Mediterranean when booking the hotel or apartment. And those who have to have their own car do not need a travel agent to sort it.

... or to get here

So what now for Thomas Cook, the outfit founded by a temperance campaigner to take people to meetings where they were warned of the dangers of the demon drink, but which has recently transported significant numbers of the thirsty? Well, many of those shops will have to go for starters. And they won’t be the only name on the High Street to vanish.

The company will have to adapt to meet demand for D-i-Y travel. Or, of course, it could go bust. The travel and holiday industry has seen plenty of that over the years, and would carry on without the Cook’s Tour rather as before.

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