Thomas Cook promises hi-tech focus on city breaks after news of agency closures and redundancies

 

Thomas Cook promised to become more “high-tech and high-touch” today as it rolled out its turnaround strategy with a bigger focus on city breaks.

The UK's second largest holiday operator, which staved off collapse a year ago following a rescue deal with lenders, said its plans centred on providing customers with “trusted and personal” holiday experiences.

It hopes to achieve the strategy while cutting another £50 million of costs on top of the £350 million already identified. Last week, it announced it will axe 2,500 jobs or 16% of its 15,500-strong UK workforce and close 195 high street travel agencies, reducing the estate to 874 shops.

Unveiling its strategy to investors, Thomas Cook said the outlook for the current year was encouraging, with bookings for summer holidays going well.

Chief executive Harriet Green, who joined the company last year, said: “We will expand our already successful hotel concepts and build a new portfolio of flexible, trusted products and services.”

The review, based on a survey of more than 18,000 people, identified that some holiday types such as city breaks were only a small part of the Thomas Cook portfolio, a shortfall it has vowed to address.

Ms Green added: “The customer survey has led us to conclude that trust, personalisation, high-tech and high-touch are the success factors in travel and consistency and strong brand are the drivers of consumer choice.”

The company will also look to reduce its online brands and websites to just three customer-facing sites in the UK and one in Germany.

The review, which triggered a 14% rise in its share price today, comes amid speculation that Thomas Cook will look to tap shareholders for £400 million in a bid to bolster its finances. It said it was still considering what action to take.

The group, which had revenues of £9.5 billion in the year to September, said its "high-tech" focus would see it target the highest share of bookings online for a major tour operator, including more than 55% in the UK by 2015.

Its survey found that 93% of travellers either search online or prefer to book online, 70% want a relationship with their supplier that goes beyond just booking and paying for the holiday, whilst two-thirds of travellers want help and advice to make the right selection.

Around half of travellers admitted to feeling overwhelmed by choice and wanted help to navigate the vast amount of information, Thomas Cook added.

PA

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