Cook stresses plan to differentiate Lucy Huxley

Tomas Cook declined to comment on reports it is to undergo a radical overhaul to become an “online holiday marketplace”, but a source close to the company reiterated that accelerating its digital presence remained core to its strategy. Te Telegraph reported at the

weekend that Cook had held shareholder meetings, outlining plans to transform into a “holiday comparison website”. But an insider said: “Te absolute

priority is to give ourselves greater financial flexibility to pay down debt and enable us to accelerate our own- brand strategy and have more of a digital focus. Te strategic review of

the airline is key to this.” Te source added: “We need to

become more streamlined with a lower cost base; and we need to genuinely set ourselves apart. Te only way of competing in an overcrowded market is to differentiate your holiday offering from others to target higher margins. “If, in a year’s time, Tomas Cook

is a smaller business but one that is more fleet-of-foot and focused on higher margins from our investment in our own-brand hotels, that will not be a bad thing.” Earlier this month, as the

group reported a half-year loss of £1.45 billion, largely due to a £1.1 billion write-down of the value of its MyTravel assets, chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “We are

The priority is

to accelerate our own-brand strategy and have more of a digital focus

following our customers’ behaviour, and the more customers are [using] digital, the more we have to follow this trend.” Last year, 64% of Cook’s bookings

were made online, up from 49% in 2017. In March, Cook announced 21 shop closures. Fankhauser said Cook’s retail network – currently 560 shops – would be reviewed “constantly”, adding: “If a shop is falling below

profitability and has no chance to return to profitability, then we see [if] we can transfer the customer into the next shop and we close the shop when the leases expire.” Cook will open 20 new own-brand

hotels by the end of 2019 as part of its turnaround strategy and expects its portfolio to reach 200. It has secured £300 million in

financing from banks to help see it through next winter, but this is dependent upon the sale of the airline. Te group received a bid last week

for its Scandinavian business from investment firm Triton Partners. Meanwhile, German broker Berenberg upgraded Cook’s shares rating from ‘sell’ to ‘hold’ status. Its share price stood at 15.5p on Tuesday aſternoon.

Mt Everest and Banksy put focus on overtourism

Benjamin Coren

Overtourism has come under the spotlight as a photo of queues on Mount Everest and Venice artwork by Banksy hit the headlines. A photo of climbers queueing

at the world’s highest peak has been described as “symptomatic of everything that is wrong in the tourism industry”. Climber Nirmal Purja’s photo went viral last week as news broke that more

4 30 MAY 2019

than 10 people were reported dead or missing while scaling the 8,848-metre mountain this spring. Nepal’s tourism authority director

general, Dandu Raj Ghimire, said bad weather was also a factor in the recent deaths and dismissed claims Everest was overcrowded as 381 permits were issued this season. Operators urged destinations to

act in response to growing public concern of overtourism. Responsible Travel chief executive Justin Francis said: “Te shocking photo

is symptomatic of everything that is wrong in the tourism industry. Te exploitation of a unique site for profit; the need of some to build their personal brand by saying ‘I’ve done Everest’; and the lack of management from governments and tourist boards, all combining to create a disastrous and dangerous situation.” Jim Eite, product and commercial

director for Exodus Travels, said: “Te industry can set examples, but ultimately governments will be the gatekeepers – they need to look at

Climbers queue on Everest. Inset: Banksy’s artwork

long-term benefits and management.” Street artist Banksy revealed Venice

in Oil, which depicts a cruise ship dominating the Venetian skyline, in St Mark’s Square this week. Francis said the artwork, alongside

the Everest photo, were “further examples of an industry geting a bad name for itself” and “reaching a fork in the road”. Clia said the sector accounted for a

“single-digit percentage” of total visitor numbers to Venice, which charges visitors €10 per day in tourist tax.

PICTURE: Nirmal w

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