Tour operator insolvency

Thomas Cook German travel agencies seek new sales partnerships

Many of Thomas Cook's more than 1,200 partner travel agencies in Germany are looking for new sales networks to recover from lost bookings and missing commissions, and 700 of them have already gained a new owner.

The insolvent German tour operator's 127 owned travel agencies (79 Thomas Cook-branded outlets and 48 'Neckermann Urlaubswelt' agencies) are still trading and are selling holidays of other tour operators and other travel products. But they represent only a tiny fraction of Cook's overall German sales network.

Thomas Cook Germany sold holidays through about 9,500 travel agencies, and many of these have not been paid commissions for sales since August. In total, Cook, with turnover of €3.8 billion in 2018, owes about €40 million in commissions, according to fvw calculations. But agents are unlikely to get these payments following the insolvency.

The situation is even worse for more than 1,200 travel agencies who cooperated closely with Germany's former number two tour operator and now face an uncertain future. The 'Thomas Cook Partner Group' network had 1,226 travel agency partners in 2018, according to the fvw Travel Sales Dossier 2019.

Apart from Cook's own travel agencies, this included about 370 franchisees in the Holiday Land network and more than 700 Neckermann Reisen 'cooperation partners" bundled in the Alpha Reisebüropartner joint venture.

However, the future for these 700 Alpha partners now seems clear. Joint venture partner RT-Reisen has moved quickly to snap Thomas Cook's 50% stake in Alpha Reisebüropartner to gain full ownership of the cooperation network. The two groups had each owned 50% of this network since 2003.

Thomas Bösl, managing director of RT-Reisen parent company RTK, said the deal was designed to ensure business clarity and stability for the Alpha Reisebüropartner travel agencies. "I'm delighted that we have succeeded in taking over full responsibility for Alpha and thus offering the travel agents clarity and stability," he declared. RTK operates a cooperation network of some 4,000 travel agencies in total.

Thomas Cook Germany's provisional insolvency administrator, Ottmar Hermann, said the disposal had been made to give the travel agencies planning certainty for the future and to maintain the sales network. "The priority is our desire to quickly find an investor for the entire German Thomas Cook group. But in some cases, like here, the sale of an individual business area makes sense for everyone involved," he explained.

The future is less clear for the 370 Holiday Land franchisees who were much more dependent on Cook. The insolvent tour operator is estimated to have made up about half of their sales on average.

Other franchise networks such as TUI Reisecenter, Derpart (DER Touristik), TVG (50% owned by FTI), Reiseland (RTK) and Schmetterling are already actively trying to persuade Holiday Land franchisees to switch to a new organisation. TUI, for example, hopes to sign up "a three-digit" number of former Thomas Cook travel agencies to expand its network of sales partners.

But various Holiday Land travel agents told fvw they have no official information whether the insolvency of Thomas Cook Germany means their franchise contracts are now legally invalid or not, or whether they are entitled to cancel their franchise contracts and sign up with rival networks.

In the latest move, more than 100 Holiday Land franchisees met in Duisburg this week to discuss their future prospects and listen to presentations from TVG, the QTA mega-alliance led by RTK, Best-Reisen, DER Touristik and Derpart. But no decisions about the organisation's future were taken, according to participants.