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Thomas Cook Group Plc, the world’s oldest holiday company, is abandoning a decades-old approach of assigning different nationalities to specific hotels after a survey indicated that the bulk of its clients would be willing to vacation with a more diverse mix of people.
The London-based tour operator, which has units in Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and Belgium, is changing strategy following the poll of 18,000 customers in which 90 percent of respondents in all four markets said they’d happily rub shoulders with a clientele beyond their own countrymen.
“We’ve exposed a myth that Germans want to be with Germans and Brits with Brits,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Fankhauser said in a briefing in the U.K. capital. “It seems most people are now willing to mix if the mix is right.” That means avoiding any one nationality accounting for too great a proportion of a hotel’s occupants, with Nordic travelers helping to ensure a good blend.
The move, which suggests Britons have become less paranoid about Germans “reserving” sun-loungers with strategically placed beach towels and that continental tourists no longer view the bulk of U.K. travelers as boorish beer swillers, will improve flexibility as Thomas Cook seeks to maximize occupancy levels amid a shortage of rooms in its most popular destinations. Capacity is at a premium after a spate of terror attacks in Turkey and north Africa focused demand on already crowded resorts in Spain and the western Mediterranean.
As part of the revised approach Thomas Cook has widened the distribution of holidays sold through two Nordic brands, Sunwing and Sunprime, as it seeks to leverage an element of “Scandi cool” to lure more-affluent customers from across Europe to its package holidays, Fankhauser said.
Family-oriented Sunwing has a portfolio including the Ocean Beach Club hotels in the Canary Islands, Crete and Cyprus, each with a gym, spa and free wifi, plus the Lollo & Bernie children’s playground and a Teen Lounge with free game consoles and movies.
Sunprime specializes in adults-only lodgings. The brand’s Monsuau hotel on Majorca’s east coast was previously limited to Scandinavian visitors but has been opened up to the U.K. and German markets and is getting some of the best customer-feedback scores in the group, according to Thomas Cook.
Fankhauser said old demarcations may still be appropriate in resorts such as Magaluf, western Majorca, known for its popularity with British bachelor parties and profusion of Irish-style pubs and fish-and-chip outlets.
Thomas Cook is also establishing a new range of own-brand hotels under the Casa Cook banner, the first of which opened on the Greek island of Rhodes last year, with the second undergoing construction on nearby Kos. About 90 percent of customers are new to the company, according to Fankhauser.
Thomas Cook, which attracts about 22 million customers a year, regards the disruption caused by terrorism and other geo-political events as the “new normal” and is working to maximize its ability to quickly shift capacity to new markets, the CEO said. Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Portugal have all seen a surge in bookings as Spain struggles to accommodate more visitors.
While throwing Brits and other Europeans together is one way to address a tougher tourism market, Thomas Cook is also looking to make better use of its airline assets to improve earnings that slipped 3 percent last year as German customers stayed away from Turkey.
About half of passengers using its four airlines do so on a flight-only basis. That figure increases to 90 percent on long-haul routes, Christoph Debus, who heads up the group’s airline operations, said in an interview.
The company has taken delivery of 25 Airbus Group SE A321 jets to replace aging Boeing Co. 757-200s and is looking at a possible role for the long-range LR version of the revamped A321neo, Debus said. It also operates 28 A330s and 767s that form the sixth-largest wide-body fleet in Europe, out of 94 planes in total.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.