TTG editor Sophie Griffiths is in Cyprus. She caught up with some of the many Thomas Cook customers – and businesses – affected by the operator’s collapse.
Cyprus is an island that depends hugely on tourism, and on operators like Thomas Cook.
Following the collapse of the 178-year-old company on Monday morning, local newspapers here reported of an emergency meeting chaired by the deputy tourism minster bringing together tourism stakeholders to examine the consequences of Thomas Cook’s collapse – not just for the estimated 15,000 tourists currently in the country,but also for the island’s crucial tourism industry.
I spoke with hotel receptionists, hotel managers and tourists on the streets and beaches of the popular resort of Protaras.
They all seemed totally bewildered and confused about what would happen next.
Mr and Mrs Sinclair from Manchester arrived on 15 September and are due to fly back on 29 September. “We’ve heard nothing,” they told me.
“We saw the rep yesterday and asked what was going on – she said we would get home safe but there’s no reps today and we haven’t heard anything at all from the hotel.
“It’s a real shock. We’re worried about whether our accommodation will still have been paid and what’s going to happen now.
“We’re on a package holiday but we don’t know now whether the transfers will turn up – the reps haven’t even turned up. You just don’t think something like this will happen – we deliberately booked with an established brand like Thomas Cook.”
I asked the Sinclairs if they could at least try to relax and enjoy the rest of their holiday. They gave me a grim smile: “We’ll try. But it’s in the back of our minds all the time – we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Sarah Parsons, 58, and her partner booked return seat-only Thomas Cook flights. They were, however, reassured by the government’s suggestion everyone would be repatriated – regardless of whether they were Atol-protected or not.
“I’m not concerned about our flights at the moment. I’ve been on the website and checked and they’ve said we’ll hear from them within 72 hours of our flights. We were relieved to hear the government said we could fly.”
I asked whether this might make them consider booking a package in future rather than a seat-only booking? “No,” she insisted.
“We’ve never booked a package and we’ve been fine this time. I also made sure we had travel insurance to cover us before we came too.
“We’ve had all the information we need. It’s all the people who’ve booked their holidays who are yet to travel that I feel for.”
Lindsay Thompson, 42, from Belfast is on holiday with her 18-month old son. She flew out to Cyprus on 18 September and is due to return home on Wednesday.
She had been due to return in October with her partner on another holiday, also booked with Thomas Cook, which will now no longer happen.
She also spoke of her frustration at the lack of information from either Thomas Cook or the hotel.
“I booked with a Thomas Cook travel agent in Belfast but they’re all shut up; I can’t get through to them.
“There’s no reps at the hotel – I’ve just heard nothing. The hotel was trying to call the office contact numbers that the reps gave them but they just keep going through to answer machines. It’s utterly hopeless.”
It’s not just the customers who are worried. “Jimmy”, who runs the Rising Sun pub at Fig Tree Bay, positioned at the top of a beach full of holidaymakers sunning themselves, said he was concerned about the impact of Thomas Cook’s failure on the many businesses here which rely on tourism.
“We have quite a few Thomas Cook customers who come in here. I am worried about it [Cook’s collapse], and that it will mean fewer people coming.
“It looks like we will have an early end to the season,” he sighed. “It would normally continue until the end of October but I don’t think we’ll have the normal gentle decrease of tourists we usually have – there will just be a sudden drop off.
“This will impact everyone,” he added. “Overall it ultimately means fewer tourists will be coming to the island. It’s just really sad news, and not just for us. I just keep thinking of all the people that have lost their jobs – the reps and everyone who worked for Thomas Cook. That’s the really serious problem.”