Six things we can all learn from the collapse of Thomas Cook
Heritage brands must move with the times.
Thomas Cook had served travellers for more than 178 years. According to YouGov research conducted in the 12 months to September 2019, it was the 8th most popular amusement, cruise & travel agent brand in the UK, and the 2nd most famous. It was described by fans as: “Accessible, Well known, Good customer service, Well-run and Good value.” Sadly, it isn’t enough for heritage brands to be loved by loyal customers if the services they offer don’t evolve to keep up with changing consumer habits and commercial realities.
It isn’t always possible to predict the market.
At least some of Thomas Cook’s difficulties can be traced back to attempts to consolidate its position as a dominant player in the European travel market. Merger with MyTravel (formerly Airtours) and then Co-operative Travel was supposed to bring cost savings and make it more competitive. Instead, it saddled the business with increasing debt at a time when the traditional travel agency trade was in decline.
Aggregators are the new travel power brands.
Some traditional travel providers might be struggling but the trend for DIY break booking has led to the success of a new breed of booking giant. A 2018 Travel Agent Power List placed online travel agencies Expedia and Booking Holdings in first and second place, with respective earnings of $88bn and $81.6bn.
People will increasingly book by mobile.
We are becoming increasingly comfortable with the concept of flexing our spending muscles on mobile phones, and little wonder. We use mobile devices to check in and out, to provide entertainment on long haul flights, and to find directions on the ground, so why wouldn’t we be using them to book trips? Visual search and booking is expected to be an emerging trend, with apps like Instagram providing access to services like easyJet’s look&book service. Spot a picture of a place you like, click through, and you’re there. Well, almost.
Travel tastes are changing.
We’re becoming more eco-conscious but that doesn’t necessarily mean opting for a staycation over an overseas break. Airlines are innovating by allowing passengers to buy carbon vouchers to offset the impact of their excursions, while hotels and car rental companies are switching to electric vehicles. Shorter breaks are becoming increasingly popular, according to the Office for National Statistics. The rise of no-frills airlines is believed to be behind the shift from 14 days to a shorter stay of between seven and 10.
Branding needs to keep pace.
The demise of Thomas Cook was a sad day for a once great British brand, but times change and staying ahead of the curve is essential in building and sustaining any brand.