Landmark deal to create the UK’s largest travel retail network

October 08, 2010

More than 1,200 stores, 345 homeworkers, 148 franchises come together to serve more than 4.3 million customers annually

In a landmark deal, Thomas Cook Group plc and The Co-operative Group have today announced they have agreed a merger of their high street travel and foreign exchange business, creating the UK’s largest high street travel retailer and the second largest provider of retail foreign exchange with more than 1,200 stores and serving more than 4.3 million customers each year.

Both businesses would contribute their entire retail and foreign exchange businesses to the joint venture, which would be 70% owned by Thomas Cook and 30% by The Co-operative Group.  A Heads of Terms agreement has also been signed with the Midlands Co-operative which is intended to join as a shareholder, bringing with them their total travel business including a further 103 retail travel stores.

In addition to its retail shops, The Co-operative Travel will bring its home working business with 345 colleagues, its national corporate travel business, its web and call centre operations and its independent consortia with 148 members. 

Outside a Co-operative Travel branch

Thomas Cook’s website www.thomascook.com, mainstream sales centre functions, airline, tour operations businesses and central functions will not be part of the deal and will continue to operate independently from the retail function.

It is also proposed that Thomas Cook would introduce a new Co-operative Travel branded tour operator with the products based on Thomas Cook’s current Sunset brochure.  This exciting programme would be available from 2012 in both Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel stores.

Today’s announcement sends a clear message to the UK holidaymaker that both businesses are fully committed to continue to provide a leading service through a network of high street stores.  Bringing together these brands would ensure that holidaymakers have greater access to leading holiday products and services, with the full knowledge that they are booking with trusted, respected and bonded travel agents.

Manny Fontenla-Novoa would be Chairman of the new business, with Ian Derbyshire as the Chief Executive Officer and Paul Hemingway as Finance Director. 

Whilst the deal is subject to anti-trust clearance from the European Commission, it is hoped to begin trading before the end of this calendar year, in time for the travel industry’s peak sales period (January – March).

Commenting on today’s deal, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, Group CEO of Thomas Cook Group plc, said:  “This is exciting news for the travel industry today as we have made a bold commitment to retaining a strong presence on the UK high street.  We have listened to our holidaymakers who have told us how important it is to have access to our stores and to our skilled and professional travel agents. As Thomas Cook we will still be developing our popular website, but today’s deal shows how we have secured the future of our stores on the high street, with this expansion development.  Back in 2007 we led the market with the Thomas Cook/MyTravel merger and we’re just as excited by today’s announcement as we were then.

“The Co-operative Travel is a business and a brand that we have always admired and we share many of the same values.  Culturally and geographically our businesses are a great fit so I’m very confident about our ambitious plans for the future.” 

Peter Marks, Group CEO of The Co-operative Group, said: “This brings together two of the industry’s most trusted brands – Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel. Through our new found scale we will ensure a profitable and successful business which will be good for our people, our members and of course our customers who will benefit with greater range of holidays and services.

“Under this deal customers will know that in booking with us they will get not only the trust and reliability we are renowned for, but an even better bargain in the process. This deal is in line with our wider strategy to grow our businesses through merger and acquisition. I believe this is an exciting opportunity for us to link with a like-minded brand which shares our values and our desire to improve our offer to our customer members.”

Customers FAQs

If you have booked a holiday and have any questions please call Customer Services on 0844 893 3301

1. Has Co-operative Travel gone bust?

Absolutely not. This is simply a coming together of two of the best-known names in travel.

2. What’s happens to the holiday I’ve booked?

It’s completely unaffected.

3. I’m abroad can I get home?

There’s nothing to worry about - carry on and enjoy your holiday. Your holiday arrangements have not been affected at all by this announcement.

4. I was going to book a holiday with you, should I now go to Thomas Cook?

No, come to us in the confidence that you now have the two of the UK’s biggest travel organisations behind you.

Notes to editors:

  • In addition to its Retail businesses, both Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel have offered a number of other associated travel and foreign exchange businesses to form part of the joint venture including The Co-operative Travel’s cruise businesses, call centres, independent consortia channels, business travel, website and home worker networks.
  • Thomas Cook’s e-Commerce, sales centre, airline, tour operator businesses and central functions will not be included.
  • Thomas Cook currently has a network of 803 stores and The Co-operative Travel currently has 401.
  • The new business would operate both the Going Places and The Co-operative brands alongside each other while the Going Places brand would be rebranded as The Co-operative Travel.
  • Until such time as the anti-trust clearance is received from the EC, both companies will continue to operate as two separate entities and remain as competitors in the marketplace.
  • There are no plans for widespread store closures as a result of the deal. 
  • As a joint venture, the new business would operate as a stand-alone business and all retail employees in stores and the dedicated retail support functions would transfer their employment over to the new joint venture. 

About Thomas Cook UK & Ireland:


Thomas Cook UK & Ireland is the second largest leisure travel group in the UK with around 19,000 employees.  The company has a network of more than 800 high street stores (Thomas Cook and Going Places), leading websites (www.thomascook.com, www.directholidays.com and www.airtours.uk), and some of the world's favourite travel brands.

These brands include Airtours, Club 18-30, Cresta, Cruise Thomas Cook, Direct Holidays, Elegant Resorts, Flexibletrips, flythomascook.com, Gold Medal, www.hotels4u.com, Manos, www.medhotels.com, Neilson, netflights.com, Panorama, Pure Luxury, Style Holidays, Sunset, Sunworld Holidays, Swiss Travel Service, Thomas Cook, Thomas Cook Signature and Thomas Cook Sport. 

Thomas Cook Airlines operates a fleet of 44 aircraft from 19 regional airports to destinations worldwide. 

Thomas Cook offers a range of financial services including foreign exchange, the Thomas Cook Credit Card, the Thomas Cook Cash Passport (the new generation of travellers' cheques), and a wide range of travel insurance policies.  It is FSA regulated for its travel insurance, which is underwritten by AXA.  The company also owns White Horse Insurance Ireland Ltd.

Thomas Cook also has a leading publishing division offering a comprehensive portfolio of over 300 independently authored travel guidebooks to more than 150 destinations across the world. 

Thomas Cook is an Official Supporter of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and the exclusive partner for UK short breaks and trips to the Games.  Thomas Cook's London 2012 packages will go on sale in 2011 and will include accommodation, transport and event tickets.  

Thomas Cook UK & Ireland is part of Thomas Cook Group plc (www.thomascookgroup.com).

About The Co-operative Travel:

Co-operative Travel is part of The Co-operative Group (www.co-operative.coop) which stands apart from other major retailers in the UK as a business which is owned, not by a small group of shareholders, but by more than five million consumers. With core interests in food, financial services, travel, pharmacy, funerals and farms, it has an annual turnover of £13.5 billion, employs 120,000 staff and operates over 5,000 retail trading outlets handling more than 20 million weekly transactions. 

Its travel business looks after more than two and a half million passengers annually through a variety of sales channels including 401 travel outlets and a 345-strong team of homeworkers.  It also supplies products and services to a consortium of 148 independent travel agents.

Press contact:

  • Bronwen Griffiths-Barrasso, Thomas Cook:  07801 417102 / 01733 417272
  • Martin Henderson/Phil Edwards, The Co-operative Group: 0752 5389081/07770 925 957