Thomas Cook has insisted independent agents are critical to its growth plans for the next two years, and is close to signing up to Advantage’s charter of partner best-practice.
“We’ve got double-digit capacity growth planned for the next two years and we cannot achieve that without the support of the trade,” head of merchandising Phil Gardner told delegates at the Advantage conference onboard MSC Fantasia.
“Independent agents are absolutely a key part of our distribution model… the future looks like us having a much better understanding of how we can work together,” he continued.
Cook is not currently one of the 87 suppliers that have signed up to Advantage’s Partnership Charter, but Gardner confirmed it was looking to sign.
“There is quite a lot of detail to go through, but yes it is an intention to join,” he confirmed.
Gardener refuted suggestions that discount code websites undermined the price-parity Cook offers to third-party agents.
“The same price goes out to every channel. If you see a discount online then that is the channel itself [offering the discount] and it is very small volume,” he claimed. He urged agents to contact Cook for it to “try to do something for you” when customers come to them with a price better than their own.
Advantage’s head of commercial, John Sullivan, said that 87 suppliers had signed up to the Advantage Partnership Charter since its launch two years ago. It includes clauses such as offering agents a free-phone telephone number and not marketing direct to an agents’ customers.
“Yes, we’d like 100% of our suppliers to be in the charter; that would be the holy grail, but how likely is it that we could get there?” Sullivan said.
“But bringing operators into the charter is changing working practices; suppliers are introducing free-phone numbers to be part of the charter,” he added.