Everyone in travel should get behind Thomas Cook and will the operator through troubled times, chairman of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) Ken McLeod has said.
McLeod said despite Cook “distancing itself from the agent community” over the past year, its name remained “synonymous with travel and the package holiday market”.
“Thomas Cook’s demise would be a terribly sad day for the industry, and hopefully that won’t happen,” said McLeod. “But they need a lot of goodwill, much investment and a wet summer to have a chance of staying the course.
“We should all hope Cook’s get through this difficult time, not just for their 20,000 employees, but also for the whole industry. After nearly 200 years in business, it would seem a cruel end to an extraordinary history.”
The value of Cook’s shares fell to just 12p last week when it posted a £1.5 billion first-half loss before hitting a new low of 8p on Monday.
Meanwhile, analysis by Citigroup, among other brokers, valued Cook’s shares at zero following its first-half results announcement on Thursday (16 May).
However, despite McLeod’s call for the industry to back Cook, he added he acknowledged the current situation “regrettably doesn’t give anyone confidence”.
“Cook’s troubles have been building for a number of years and while they have been keeping their head above water, any downturn in sales two years running in a vertically integrated company has a much more damaging effect when the whole group of owned agencies, operator, airline and hotels see business disappear,” he said.
“Despite the fact we’ve been here before, some eight years ago when Cook’s share price fell to a real low, they recovered, albeit with the help of a lot of travel people who ploughed their money in because they saw a bright future for the organisation – but this looks different.
“Their debt pile is huge and unless they sell the airline, it is difficult to see how they can get out of the spiral of a downward trend, when many customers won’t see this as the best place to book a holiday.”
Cook issued a statement at the weekend insisting it had taken steps to strengthen its financial position ahead of the summer and customers could have complete confidence booking with the historic tour operator.