Thomas Cook insolvency

Hoteliers want earlier payments from tour operators

A heartfelt goodbye. Thomas Cook Germany staff wave farewell in front of the company's head office in Oberursel, near Frankfurt.
Thomas Cook
A heartfelt goodbye. Thomas Cook Germany staff wave farewell in front of the company's head office in Oberursel, near Frankfurt.

The break-up of Thomas Cook in Germany is nearing completion but hoteliers in major destinations who lost heavily from the insolvency are demanding earlier payments from tour operators in future.

The former second-largest German tourism group officially closed down at the end of November, with the loss of about 1,000 jobs at the head office in Oberursel, near Frankfurt. The company organised a job fair where locally-based companies, including Lufthansa, Deutsche Bahn and several tour operators, presented themselves to Cook employees.

The insolvent group's break-up in Germany is now effectively complete. There were no buyers for Thomas Cook Germany as a whole nor for the brands Neckermann Reisen, Thomas Cook Signature and Air Marin. Turkey specialist Öger Tours and Bucher Reisen were taken over by Turkish group Anex.

The bulk of Cook's 1,200-strong travel agency network also went to different buyers. Department store group Karstadt Kaufhof has acquired 106 of the company's 126 owned agencies, while leading travel agency network RTK has taken over the franchise network (Holiday Land) with 360 members. RT-Reisen (the RTK parent company) and Schauinsland-Reisen are the new joint owners of the Alpha Reisebüropartner cooperation network, which comprises more than 700 independent travel agencies.

In terms of Cook's hotel business, the international brands Casa Cook and Cook's Club were sold to former Chinese shareholder Fosun Group. In Germany, DER Touristik has now agreed terms to take over Sentido, the up-market franchise chain with 46 properties (which mostly attract German-speaking guests). The future of the other hotel brands, Sunprime (adults), Sunwing (families), Smartline (budget) and Sunconnect, remains unclear, although some Sunprime and Sunwing properties have been taken over by Ving Group (formerly Thomas Cook Nordics). 

Meanwhile, Turkish hoteliers are demanding earlier payments from tour operators in future as a consequence of their heavy debts caused by the Cook insolvency. Many hotels in different destinations have not been paid for accommodation booked by Cook from July until September. The company, which declared insolvency at the end of September, generally did not pay invoices until more than 60 days after receiving them.

Erkan Yagci, president of the Antalya regional hoteliers association (Aktob), told fvw: "It's unacceptable that tour operators such as Thomas Cook or TUI first pay up 60 days after getting the bill that is generated when the customer checks out." His association, with 900 members, is demanding payment within 21 days at the latest, not least so that they can pay their monthly staff wages and other costs.

The consequences of the Cook insolvency were also a major topic at a Turkish resort hotel conference in Belek last week which was attended by more than 1,000 hoteliers, tourism managers and officials.

Sören Hartmann, CEO of DER Touristik Group, admitted at the conference that the insolvency had damaged the image of tour operators among hoteliers while the issue of a new insolvency insurance system needed to be resolved. But he claimed that German consumer booking behaviour had now "normalised", emphasising: "Package holidays are still the best and most secure method of travel."

On the issue of payment deadlines, Hartmann said hotels "should not have to act like banks" and had the right to receive their payments within a fair period of time. "Review who you want to work with and who you don't," he advised.

Turkish tourism minister Mehmet Ersoy told conference participants that Ankara had reacted quickly by providing €50 million in financial support to hoteliers to enable them to pay back loans.