The Co-operative Travel Group has reassured major tour operators their sales will be largely maintained through its high-street travel agencies despite the launch of its own inhouse operator.
The group is to launch its own tour operator Co-operative Holidays in a joint venture with Cosmos Holidays to guarantee product through its own retail chain and drive up inhouse sales to around a third of the business.
It will have an ATOL licence for more than 15,000 passengers and will be ABTA bonded.
The move is in part a response to protect its retailers from moves made by major operators in recent years to cut commission to the trade.
Commercial director Shaun Hinds admitted the move could have some impact on sales of other tour operators’ products, but stressed: “We will need to continue to sell other operators’ holidays as an independent retailer. We are a broad church.”
He added: “Inevitably by offering our own holidays there will be some customers that may now choose to book with our own operator but we will still be number one or two with most of the major operators, even if there is a bit of slippage.”
Hinds said the group’s aim to tap into a new, younger generation of holidaymakers would help maintain sales of other operators’ products through its agencies.
The group’s parent company has ploughed £70 million into promoting its brand across the sectors it operates in and hopes to create a new customer base.
“We believe our advertisements will resonate with the younger generation that are engaged with issues such as community and ethical investment so we can make our holidays relevant to a new group of customers rather than shifting our support of operators. Third-party operators will always be critical,” he said.
Hinds insisted the operator would not be “forced down [its] agents’ throats” but also claimed: “We will work to get the product right so there will not be a lot of reason why our staff would not chose this option.”