/ Travel & Leisure

Thomas Cook high street store closures – will you miss them?

A swimming pool overlooking the sea

The British high street’s unlucky 2013 continues. Thomas Cook has revealed plans to close 195 branches, with a loss of 2,500 jobs. Do you still book your holidays on the high street, or do you go online?

After the news that the shutters were coming down on Jessops, Republic and many HMV stores, Thomas Cook has this week announced plans to close nearly 200 Thomas Cook and Co-Operative branches around the UK.

This is bad news for the 2,500 employees who are set to lose their jobs, but if one of these stores is on your local high street, will you be sad to see it vanish?

The hard facts are that fewer of us are choosing to book holidays face-to-face with a travel agent these days. According to a recent Mintel report, the number of holidays booked with a travel agent dropped by 13% from 2008 to 2012 (from 21.7 million down to 18.6 million).

Online vs high street holiday bookings

It’s no big surprise. Tough financial times mean many of us have cut back on our spending on trips abroad, and people are now used to booking their own holidays online, assuming it’s cheaper as well as more convenient that way.

But in Which? Travel research last year, we found that visiting a high street travel agent can be just as cheap as booking online. And a good travel agent can be invaluable in ensuring you get a suitable and good value holiday, put together a complex itinerary and help sort out travel essentials like visas.

In a Conversation post last year, commenter Chrissie was happy with her experience with a Thomson agent, who matched the online price:

‘I found my in-store experience very positive; speaking face to face with a member of staff is far more preferable to looking at a computer screen’

But Tpoots wasn’t a fan:

‘It’s a shame really, the high street travel agent is more about “How much commission will this make me?” rather than “Is this the ideal holiday for my customer?” these days.’

Thomas Cook could do better

But is Thomas Cook’s predicament just down to the fact people are moving away from the high street and booking holidays online?

Perhaps there’s more to it – could it be that customers aren’t rebooking with the travel giant because they are unimpressed with the service or quality of holidays offered?

In our 2012 holiday companies survey, Thomas Cook got the second lowest customer score of the 26 firms we featured. And in our recent airline survey, Thomas Cook Airlines also got low customer scores (just 36% for its short-haul flights, and 43% for its long-haul flights).

Do you have a Thomas Cook or Co-operative travel agent branch on your local high street? Will you miss having the branch on your doorstep if it closes down, or do you prefer to book online anyway?

Sophie Gilbert says:
9 March 2013

I stopped booking my holidays through a travel agent a long time ago when I discovered that it was much cheaper for me to do this online instead. I may use a travel agent again only if I need specialist advice for out-of-the-ordinary travel arrangements in an unsual country, but then again, I’ll also be checking the net.

Could it be that people actually prefer online outlets? Your supermarket survey covered 5 companies that provided both an in-store and an online service. In 4 cases the online service had a higher customer satisfaction rating.

I have cruised more lately rather than land based holidays. It’s so easy and nearly always cheaper booking cruises on line but I am more cautious with land based holidays unless its completely packaged and you know what you are getting. There are not that many travel agents in Lincoln now and you nearly always end up queuing which is not great but they nearly always give recommendations and good advise so there is a need for them. National travel agents are restrictive to “what’s in the book” while independents tend to be able to offer more bespoke packages which can be useful. Long live the travel shop!

The package companies hate Singles & allow them to be ripped off so have nothing to do with them.

Richard says:
15 March 2013

I have often been appalled at the lack of knowledge in high street chains. I have not used them for eight or ten years. One exception though Trailfinders. Otherwise I use Internet and Trip Advisor for much better vfm. Rough Guides and Michelin guides provide information.


Bill Rigby says:
29 March 2013

We always used a Co-op travel on the high street, as the girl there was very helpful and patient with us, often getting nus a better deal than on line offers. Since being taken over by Thomas Cook it has closed. We are looking for another independent travel agency.

well i for one wont miss them they just rip you off been using internet for years

Regarding Thomas Cook I would never use them again. 6 years ago I booked my mothers 80th birthday present holiday to visit London . I rang the hotel to check diabetic information the day before flying from Belfast. The hotel told me they didn’t have anyone booked under our name. I drove down to T Cooks agents and the lady told me it could take time checking it and that she would sort things out. I phoned later and she told me things were sorted. We travelled there the next day to discover (having left our bags at the lobby having arrived before c night that we were not checkin) at 10pm that we were not booked in. I was forced to pay another £150 and we were put in a room with a faulty shower and cracked shower floor. I phoned T Cooks office that evening but didn’t get to speak to anyone who could help. It wasn’t until the next afternoon that they phoned back and told me they had sorted it. I did get my money back but it was a traumatic start to our holiday. I tried to claim from them but their reps were never very facilitating and just kept putting me off. They kept blaming the hotel but eventually the hotel manager did some research and found out through the middle person that we’d been booked into the wrong hotel. We got no compensation for what was a terribly botched holiday and vowed never again to use T Cook.