Leading tour operators in Germany, including TUI, DER Touristik, FTI, Alltours and Schauinsland-Reisen, are trying to win Thomas Cook customers with special offers and have secured additional capacity from former Cook hotel partners after the insolvent tour operator cancelled all bookings up to December 31.
Thomas Cook Germany, with two million annual customers and 660,000 advance bookings through to summer 2020 at the time of its insolvency, this week cancelled all bookings up to the end of the year. Meanwhile, nearly all the 140,000 customers hit by the insolvency are now back in Germany.
Managing director Stefanie Berk said the latest cancellation step was necessary to provide 'planning certainty' for customers due to go on holiday over Christmas. She added: "We're working hard to resume business from December 1, 2019, so that we can offer holidays again from January 1, 2020, onwards."
In parallel, the company's insolvency administrators are currently in "intensive" talks with potential investors for Thomas Cook GmbH as a whole or individual parts of the company, whose tour operator brands include Neckermann Reisen, Öger Tours, Thomas Cook Signature, Bucher Reisen and Air Marin.
But amid uncertainty whether Thomas Cook can make any kind of comeback in Germany, competitors have been quick to offer affected customers various alternative holiday options and sign up capacity with hoteliers who previously marketed their properties exclusively or mostly through the insolvent tour operator.
The market leader will also expand summer 2020 flight capacity with more flights from Leipzig and is considering adding more services from other airports. In parallel, TUIfly is reportedly considering launching selected long-haul flights, possibly in winter 2020/21.
In terms of sales, TUI hopes to sign up "a three-digit" number of former Thomas Cook travel agencies to expand its network of sales partners. The company is offering Cook customers the option of booking an alternative TUI holiday until October 20 without having to make any advance payment and offering a €50 discount on holidays costing more than €699. Customers would be able to cancel free of charge with TUI if Thomas Cook was able to carry out the originally planned trip.
Germany CEO Marek Andryszak declared: "In 2020 we will offer holidaymakers the biggest choice and support local hoteliers at the same time. Overall, we expect about half a million additional customers, who we can offer a safe holiday in the usual TUI quality." He said it was "bitter" when a long-standing competitor left the market but emphasised that TUI was a financially strong group with a different business model than Cook and who customers and partners could rely on.
In terms of sales activities, DER Touristik is paying travel agents 2% additional commission for bookings from former Cook customers by October 31 and is offering attractively-priced holidays with Condor flights for the forthcoming autumn half-term holidays in Caribbean and Indian Ocean destinations.
"This means that no holidaymaker has to give up on their usual hotel," explained Karsten Fricke, the tour operator's hotel procurement director. In addition, Alltours is offering all customers booking a winter or summer holiday by November 15 the option of a free cancellation or re-booking to an alternative destination.
Elsewhere, FTI is now offering holidays in 300 formerly exclusive Thomas Cook hotels (including Iberostar, Sentido and Sunconnect properties). Moreover, DER Touristik, FTI and Schauinsland are all offering the club resorts of Aldiana, which previously had a wide-ranging sales agreement with minority owner Thomas Cook. DER Touristik Central Europe chief Ingo Burmester said the Aldiana clubs "ideally extend" the group's product portfolio.