Writing this column feels like a counselling session where I can get rid of my angst.
We say that every year “something happens in travel – something that pulls us together as an industry, something that makes us stronger”. But never in all my days did I think Thomas Cook could actually cease trading.
What a very sad week it has been for the industry, and my heart goes out to all our fellow travel colleagues who woke up to a different world on Monday morning and to any others who have been affected by the collapse.
Nobody wanted to admit, or even think about, the possibility that one of the UK’s favourite tour operators could be no more, and the camaraderie continuing to be shown within our industry has been heartwarming.
However, truth be told, this was the first speculated operator failure many of us had put together an action plan for, just in case. At Idle Travel, our customers were called to ease their minds and our teams were on standby. I’m sure everyone was sleeping with one eye open on the Sunday night, praying it was going to be good news.
Speaking to many independent agents in the Yorkshire area throughout Monday, it was clear many had started their day at crazy o’clock.
It helped being armed with the information we needed from our trade bodies, making it easier to pass on professional and informative messages. Although the news for our customers was disappointing and frustrating, our messages were much more positive than what they’d seen on the TV and in the newspapers. The national media is, as always, making the situation worse.
Our customers were protected, their money was secure and we were hopeful they would still be travelling.
I am sure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet in congratulating our consortia on the continuous updates they gave. I personally want to say a huge thank you to the Advantage Travel Partnership for sending their first email at 3am on Monday (23 September) and setting us up for the day.
The support has continued over the past few days. Many of our trade partners have excelled, contacting us, giving us information and helping us rescue holidays and flights for our customers. Others have disappointed us, knocking our confidence in them.
What mystifies me is that the warning signs were there about Thomas Cook. The tour operators should have had a plan in place – some simply didn’t.
Some operators didn’t help us fight to save the bookings, meaning we’ve lost out. I’m sure once the storm starts to die down we will have time to reassess our list of “go-to” operators based around the handling of this situation, and I’m sure it won’t be pretty reading.
I am a great believer in everything happening for a reason. Many fantastic people’s lives have been turned upside down this week, some great agencies’ dreams have been fractured.
Hopefully, once the dust settles, the silver lining will twinkle and new chapters will start.
I hope owners and managers will learn from this terrible situation and make their companies a little bit stronger, so their teams feel more secure in the future.