Cosmos is to reinvent itself as an online retailer, selling not just its own products but also other suppliers’ holidays.
The operator, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is poised to unveil a website that it describes as “our answer to high street distribution”.
The move is part of a radical new approach by parent Monarch Holdings, which has also tied up a deal with Spanish travel giant Globalia to fly routes currently dominated by no-frills carriers.
Talking exclusively to Travel Weekly at last week’s ITT conference in Venice, Monarch chairman Fabio Mantegazza said: “We don’t want to buy shops, but we know we can get our share of the online space, which we are not getting.
“If we’re spending money getting people to our website, we’ve got to sell them something and give them proper choice [other operators’ product].”
Mantegazza said the move would not be universally welcomed.
“There will be people who are comfortable with it and those who are not. But it’s a marketplace with a lot of people in it and they are free to work with us or not. We are not out to take anyone’s lunch. We still want to work with agents. But now we need a multi-channel approach.”
He said the Cosmos name had been chosen for the online venture because “research had shown the brand to have the most resilience and appeal”.
“It’s a bit dusty,” Mantegazza admitted. “It’s kind of out of focus and this gives us an opportunity to get people to focus on it differently.”
The Monarch airline and website will be retained in a two-brand strategy. “There is this misperception we can’t afford to push two brands. That was our strategy, but it was driven by accountants. We’ll invest in both brands and that will cost more, but will result in more revenue,” Mantegazza said.
The move by Cosmos comes as tour operator rival Thomas Cook continues to follow its OTA ambitions having set up a separate business based in London as it bids to become one of the top three online agents in Europe.
Cosmos tried to secure high street distribution two years ago through a joint venture tour operation with The Co-operative Group but this folded after just a year and the Co-op has since agreed a retail merger with Thomas Cook which the competition authorities in the UK and currently investigating.