Thomas Cook, the man, organized his first trip in 1841, and the travel company that bears his name is still going. After a series of mergers and acquisitions the company now has 17 key brands to focus on. Read our take on each.
As befits an organization that can trace its roots back almost two centuries, Thomas Cook Group has collected its fair share of brands.
A series of mergers and acquisitions in the 2000s created a bloated travel behemoth, eventually bringing the London-based company close to collapse.
Just barely surviving, management has worked hard to slim down the travel company and make it relevant for 21st century tourism.
A few things stand out: Thomas Cook has a much bigger focus on hotels than it did a couple of years ago and it also concentrates on fewer tour operator brands than it used to.
We’ve chosen to focus on the core group of 17 key brands and included Thomas Cook’s take on each one (sometimes translated into English) versus our own view.
Hero Tour Operator Brands
Markets: UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, China
Thomas Cook Take: “There are no compromises to be made on a Thomas Cook holiday. Choose the holiday type that’s perfect for you; we have all inclusive holidays, cruise deals, beach breaks, family holidays and plenty more available to suit all budgets.”
Skift Take: Thomas Cook Group takes its name from the travel brand that can trace its history back to 1841. Essentially, it is a vertically integrated tour operator that controls all parts of the holiday experience. In a number of European markets consumers can buy a Thomas Cook holiday in a Thomas Cook travel agency, fly on a Thomas Cook airline and stay in a Thomas Cook hotel. Although the Thomas Cook brand is mostly associated with the UK, it is present in other markets such as Germany and France. It became famous in the UK for the advertising slogan “Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it.”
Markets: Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland
Thomas Cook Take: “Neckermann Reisen makes it possible — under this motto, the tour operator has been making holidays for broad sections of the population possible for more than 45 years.”
Skift Take: Another old brand. Founded in 1963. It became part of what is now Thomas Cook through an acquisition in 2000. Like many of the other brands in the Thomas Cook portfolio, it eventually adopted the sunny heart logo that the company introduced in 2012. Consumers once perceived Neckermann as old-fashioned but it is now much more of a generalist tour operator and has spread from Germany to become the main Thomas Cook brand across much of central Europe.
Markets: Norway and Sweden
Thomas Cook Take: “Ving offers all types of travel, from classic package tours… [and] charter flights to flexible scheduled flights with the customer’s own content.”
Skift Take: Thomas Cook still uses stand-alone brands in Scandinavian markets. Ving is its Swedish and Norwegian offering. It became part of Thomas Cook Group following the merger with MyTravel. The company’s sunny heart logo was first trialled with Ving and Thomas Cook’s other Scandinavian brands.
Thomas Cook Take: “Founded in 1956 by Simon Spies, today [it] is Denmark’s largest travel agent. Spies offers package deals with charter flights (flights and hotels), but it is also possible to book regular packages, as well as flights or only hotels.”
Skift Take: Like Ving and Tjäreborg, Thomas Cook has recognized that Spies is too strong a brand to discard. It became famous across the internet for its “Do It For Denmark” advertising campaign in 2014.
Thomas Cook Take: “Tjäreborg offers classic package deals with charter flights, but it is also possible to book regular scheduled flights as well as flights or only hotels.”
Skift Take: The third of Thomas Cook’s trio of separately branded tour operators in Scandinavia. The company actually takes its name from a village in Denmark. Tjäreborg is number three in the Finnish market behind TUI Finland and Finnair-owned Aurinkomatkat.
Thomas Cook Take: “Since 1968, Jet Tours… has put a team of travel experts at your disposal to help you choose from more than 50 destinations, more than 40 clubs in 12 countries or within our wide selection of hotels around the world.”
Skift Take: Jet Tours is the only one of Thomas Cook’s hero tour operators not to have the exact same sunny heart brand identity as the rest. The logo is similar but not quite the same. Maybe it’s because it is the newest member of the group. Thomas Cook bought the company from Club Med in 2008.
Thomas Cook Airlines
Markets: UK, Scandinavia, Balearics
Thomas Cook Take: “Over the last four years, we have transformed our airline from four separate national airlines into one group airline under one management team, with shared maintenance, IT systems and infrastructure. In parallel, we have expanded the proportion of business that the airline does independent of the tour operator, building a world-class leisure airline which benefits from a dependable, and sizeable, base of tour operator customers, while also increasingly competitive with airlines across Europe on a seat-only basis.”
Skift Take: Actually three separate airlines (Thomas Cook disbanded the Belgian arm) but as they have the same branding, we’ll treat them as one. What’s interesting here is that unlike rival TUI Group, Thomas Cook has given its airline some independence, meaning they can try and attract flight-only customers rather than those booking a whole package holiday. Thomas Cook has also spotted what it thinks is a gap in the market by looking at growing in the long-haul market with more flights to the U.S. and South Africa.
Thomas Cook Take: “Since the 1950s Condor has been a leader in leisure flights across Europe.”
Skift Take: While technically part of the same airline division as the above trio because it is differently branded it makes sense to take a look at it in isolation. The competitive aviation landscape in Germany led to an attempt to merge the airline with its rivals. It counted Lufthansa — Germany’s dominant player — as a shareholder up until 2009, when Thomas Cook took complete control. Condor is one of the airlines looking to benefit from the collapse of Germany’s second largest carrier Air Berlin. It is particularly strong in the Caribbean.
Sunwing Family Resorts
Global Footprint: 13 hotels
Thomas Cook Take: “Our Sunwing Family Resorts are where you want to be heading if you’re looking for that extra special family holiday. At our Sunwing hotels, we’ve thought of everything to make your holiday extraordinary, from the Teen Lounges and kids’ clubs to the Happy Baby Rooms and the excellent Bambino Packages that can make life that little bit easier for you.”
Skift Take: A well-known Scandinavian brand that Thomas Cook is introducing to other source markets. Sunwing is the company’s 4 star (+) product aimed at families. Locations include Majorca and Tenerife. If Thomas Cook wants to grow the number of bookings at its own-brand hotels, Sunwing needs better recognition in markets like the UK.
Global Footprint: 17 hotels
Thomas Cook Take: “Our 4-star Sunprime Hotels offer a unique and peaceful adult-only experience for you to truly unwind on your holiday. So whether you’re travelling as a couple, with a group of friends or with your kids aged 16 or over, you’ll have a perfect, relaxing getaway at any one of our beautiful Sunprime locations.”
Skift Take: Similar to TUI’s Sensimar brand, Sunprime styled as adult’s only. It targets couples and friends with fitness classes, good gym and spa facilities. Like Sunwing it was primarily a Scandinavian brand before Thomas Cook decided to open it up to its other source markets.
Global footprint: 18 hotels
Thomas Cook Take: “SunConnect holidays are all about bringing the family together for an unforgettable holiday that everyone will enjoy. Great for kids of all ages, you’ll find an on-site restaurant, kids’ club and family-friendly rooms in every hotel.”
Skift Take: Another Thomas Cook hotel brand aimed at families. SunConnect’s price point is typically lower than sister brand Sunwing. Greece, Spain and Turkey are popular locations. When it launched in 2013 the media billed it as a a hi-tech brand with free Wi-Fi and Xbox consoles, five years later it all sounds a bit out of date.
Global footprint: 1 hotel
Thomas Cook Take: “Here, you’ll find a melting pot of cultures, textures and flavours that creates a casually cool paradise where everyone is welcome. We focus on good music, great drinks and fantastic food in an atmosphere where you’ll be able to mingle with like-minded people and create your dream holiday.”
Skift Take: Thomas Cook’s newest hotel brand and one that it is hoping will do a lot of business. It’s a slimmed-down budget version of Casa Cook, aimed at design conscious millennials, who take pictures of everything.
Sentido Hotels and Resorts
Global Footprint: 68 hotels
Thomas Cook Take: “Our Sentido Hotels & Resorts are classy and welcoming, with individual style designed to leave you feeling relaxed and revitalised come the end of your holiday. All of our Sentido Hotels are 4 or 5-star, situated in prime locations and the main aim of them is to make you feel good and provide an unforgettable holiday for your senses.”
Skift Take: While not strictly adults only, Sentido is certainly aimed mainly at the couples and single traveler market. It is Thomas Cook’s biggest own-brand hotel but its visual identity is quite different. Might this change over the coming year to bring it more in line with the rest of the company?
Global footprint: 59 hotels
Thomas Cook Take: “Our Smartline Hotels want to make sure you get the best value for money on your getaway. Smartline is all about easy-going, fresh and colourful holidays, making sure you have a memorable holiday with your family or friends. Found in the heart of our most popular holiday destinations, these 3 and 4-star hotels are always close to the beach.”
Skift Take: It looks like Thomas Cook is having second thoughts about the roll-out of this budget brand as it has reduced the number of properties in recent years. It doesn’t really fit in with Thomas Cook’s newer offerings, which are much more stylized. Could the Cook’s Club brand end up replacing it?
Global Footprint: 3 hotels
Thomas Cook Take: “Casa Cook holidays are all about nourishing your mind, body and soul. Whether you want an adult-focused holiday with your partner or a group of friends, or a relaxing getaway with your family, you’ll love the laid-back atmosphere of our Casa Cook Hotels.”
Skift Take: Thomas Cook tried something new and different with its “affordable chic” Casa Cook product. The company has worked hard with the brand positioning and seems to have done a good job driving interest. CEO Peter Fankhauser said 90 percent of guests were new to Thomas Cook. If the company is going to make headway with younger travelers, especially in the UK, it really needs Casa Cook to be a success.
Global Footprint: 9 hotels
Thomas Cook Take: “Vacation time means time for yourself and for the loved ones. In our Aldiana Clubs we offer you a variety of freedoms and opportunities. In addition to a varied sports, fitness and wellness program, you can choose between many other activities and offers: feasting, sunbathing, relaxing, party celebrations under the stars or enjoy our late riser breakfast.”
Skift Take: Having sold its remaining interest in Aldiana back in 2012 it was somewhat surprising to see Thomas Cook pick up a 42 percent stake last year. The deal was part of a wider strategic alliance with LMEY Investments, a Swiss-based hotel property development company, and shows just how interested Thomas Cook is in improving its hotel offering. Aldiana specializes in active holidays and competes with the likes of TUI-owned Robinson Club.
Thomas Cook Money
Markets: Mainly UK and Sweden
Thomas Cook Take: “Thomas Cook Money brings all of Thomas Cook’s existing financial services under one roof but will also focus on launching innovative new products to help customers plan, save, borrow and spend their holiday money, both at home and abroad.”
Skift Take: Thomas Cook sees travel financial services as an untapped market. It has combined all its previous assets under one umbrella brand and appointed a heavy-hitter from the banking industry to run the division. It now offers a prepaid currency card, an app-based insurance product and a mobile banking app. “The aim is to double our existing base of 3 million financial services customers over the next 5 years by also leveraging higher profits per customer,” CEO Peter Fankhauser said last year.
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Tags: brands explained, germany, scandinavia, thomas cook, uk
Photo credit: A Thomas Cook Group branded towel. The company 177-year-old company is trying to reinvent itself. Thomas Cook Group