Travel Network Group Tests Idea of “Concierge” Fee for Customers: The Travel Network Group says it has found a way of countering the effect of new laws relating to card fees by introducing a “paid-for” concierge service for its customers. The group reports that it has been conducting a trial run for the new Concierge Service at its owned Worldchoice stores and says, if it is successful, it will be rolled out to members before the end of the year. The company’s research found that although customers reacted negatively to the idea of a “booking fee,” the vast majority were open to the idea of a small charge for extra help with their booking. The latter would include the printing of boarding passes, an online cruise personalizer, help with visa applications, no in-house amendment fees on any bookings, and a 24-hour customer support service pre- and post-holiday and in resort. The Travel Network Group says the concept would help agents mitigate the costs of not being able to pass on credit and debit card fees from January 2018. If formally launched, the new service, and fee, would be added to the total cost of a holiday purchase.
Thomas Cook’s Website to be powered by Expedia Hotel Inventory. The agreement, made possible by Expedia Global Partner Solutions, the partnership arm of Brand Expedia, will over time provide Thomas Cook consumers with access to thousands more hotels for the company’s city and domestic holiday businesses. Also as part of the new alliance, Thomas Cook’s primary websites, contact centers, stores and distribution to affiliated travel agents will eventually be powered by Expedia’s market-leading platform for various types of travel bookings. “The combination of Expedia’s portfolio of hotels and best-in-class online technology will transform Thomas Cook’s city breaks and hotel-only offer for customers while helping the business take an important step forward in delivering our strategy for profitable growth,” said Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook’s CEO.
Will Forest Holidays Sale have an Impact on Center Parcs Plan for USA? Center Parcs, which operates five outdoor resorts across the UK, was reported by Sky News to be among a number of suitors for Forest Holidays, which has been put up for sale by its private equity owner. Forest Holidays is jointly owned by the Forestry Commission and LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, and trades from nine sites across the UK. Two years ago, when U.S. private equity firm Blackstone sold Center Parcs UK to Brookfield Property Partners, a Canadian property group, it was widely reported that the move signaled that an expansion into the USA was likely. The company pointed out at the time, however, that its first agenda item was a new facility in Ireland. Center Parcs is already pursuing an expansion plan that includes the opening of a resort in Ireland, while the wider domestic holidays sector has seen significant corporate activity with the £1 billion ($1.36 billion) merger of Park Resorts and Parkdean Holidays. According to published reports, Parkdean Resorts, is also expected to submit a bid for Forest Holidays. Center Parcs was founded in 1967, under the original name of Sporthuis Centrum Recreatie, by Piet Derksen, a Dutch leisure entrepreneur. It opened its first British village, in Sherwood Forest in 1987, but the UK and continental businesses became separate companies in 2001.