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Thomas Cook in Thailand at crossroads

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BANGKOK, 1 October 2019: While the shutters lowered on high street travel shops in the UK and Germany, one tiny joint venture Thomas Cook in Thailand motors on at least for now.

Thomas Cook in Destination (Thailand) Ltd, a joint venture between Thomas Cook Group and Bangkok-based Asian Trails, reported 937 Thomas Cook clients were travelling in the country as of last Friday and their Thailand travels had not been uninterrupted.

Over the weekend the number of Thomas Cook clients travelling in Thailand dropped to just 432 as clients returned home on completing their holiday stays.

TTR Weekly understands from Thomas Cook comments that there was “no repatriation from Thailand. No customers needed rescue as there were no Thomas Cook flights to Thailand; all customers were booked on scheduled flights.”

Based on Thomas Cook communications, TTR Weekly understands “customers are able to spend their holiday as planned in Thailand and will leave as scheduled on their departure flights. Thomas Cook Thailand will provide transfers to airports as the Thailand joint venture is still operating. All costs for hotels/suppliers are covered by Zurich Insurance even if the stay extends beyond the previous 8 October cut-off date stated in a Zurich Insurance document.”

More than 600,000 travellers required repatriation from overseas destinations when parent company Thomas Cook, headquartered in Peterborough in the UK, declared insolvency 23 September.

Asian Trails Chairman, Luzi Matzig in a telephone interview with TTR Weekly reiterated: “Thomas Cook clients from the UK and Europe are being looked after and continue their trips according to their bookings. All of them are due to return home within two weeks.”

But for the 36 staff employed by Thomas Cook in Destination (Thailand) Ltd the future is less assuring.

Matzig confirmed their jobs are safe for now, but the long-term future of the sole Thomas Cook company in Southeast Asia remains in the balance.

“The situation will be clarified by mid-October, but as it stands now jobs are safe, and salaries have been paid,” he reported.

The joint venture firm founded in April 2018 to handle all Thomas Cook business in Thailand became fully operational last October with offices in Bangkok and Phuket.

Thomas Cook Group and Asian Trails, a destination management company registered in Thailand with an Asia-wide network, each own a 49% share in the Thailand company with an unnamed Thai individual holding the remaining 2%. 

It handled around 100,000 travellers booked by Thomas Cook companies in the UK and Europe on holidays in Thailand since it became fully operational in November 2018.

“Funds are available to run the company (TCiDM Thailand),” explained Matzig.

But despite the assurances, the future of the Thailand-registered Thomas Cook joint venture will depend largely on talks to reboot Thomas Cook Germany, which declared insolvency last Wednesday.

It hopes to secure a loan from the Hessen government in Germany to rescue popular travel brands Neckermann Reisen, Oeger Tours and Bucher Reisen.

Condor a charter airline serving Thomas Cook brands in Germany survives following the injection of a EUR380 million loan from the federal government.

Thomas Cook Germany represented around 40% of the business in Thailand with another 45% coming from Thomas Cook Nordic, which has so far remained fully operational although it is looking for a new owner.

“The Thomas Cook UK share of package holiday travel to Thailand is only 4%,” according to Matzig who confirmed continental Europe (except Nordic and Germany) supplied another 11% of the business.

“We have to wait to see what happens in Germany. My prediction is Neckermann will survive and be back in business by November or December this year.

“Thomas Cook Nordic (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland) will continue to operate as normal.

“For Thailand, the operators of Thomas Cook Germany plus Thomas Cook Nordic represent around 85% of our total Thomas Cook production so definitely manageable.”

The future of smaller Thomas Cook operations in Europe remains unclear. Thomas Cook Austria filed for insolvency late last week as did Thomas Cook Poland both hoping to reopen if they can secure new funding.

Thomas Cook Holland has been granted protection from creditors. Thomas Cook’s Belgium tour operator declared insolvency last Thursday.

Thomas Cook France also declared insolvency last Thursday but has applied for judicial recovery procedures with an aim to finding a buyer. It believes it can resolve the issue by 31 October to resume bookings.

While not a big player in Thailand, the French company supplied “round Thailand tour” bookings that focused mainly on North Thailand in contrast with the almost exclusively beach bookings for South Thailand generated by Thomas Cook Nordic.

Take Thomas Cook Nordic and Thomas Cook Germany out of the Thai joint venture’s business mix and the remainder of the business from Europe and the UK is not more than 15%.

Thomas Cook Nordic’s popular travel brands are Ving, Spies, Tjareborg and Globetrotter, while Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia continues to fly. As Thailand heads for the high season that starts in earnest this November, bookings from Nordic lands will keep ‘Thomas Cook in Destination Thailand’ ticking over, but for long-term success, eyes are on rescue attempts in Germany.

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