Ambitions by Thomas Cook to make a serious challenge to Expedia in Europe have officially started, although to the naked eye it would seem less than obvious.
The company says its stated target of launching the business from 1 October 2010 was met and it is now busily recruiting more people to run the division from its London base.
Cook's former MD of sales, Simon Robinson, was named as the OTAs first country boss earlier this year, heading the UK wing and spearheading the first market in which the agency will operate before rolling out across Europe.
Additional country managers will be unveiled in the coming weeks and months, all reporting into Thomas Doering who was given overall responsibility for the OTA in May 2010.
Details regarding the online travel agency have been reasonably slim until now, with executives said to be preparing for a significant and public preview of the business around the time of the Thomas Cook Group's next set of financial statements in December 2010.
What we do know is this:
- Thomascook.com will be the main brand used for the OTA (scotching suggestions that a new brand name or revival of MyTravel.com might be in order).
- Hotel stock is the main area needing improvement, especially in the city break sector (MedHotels, Hotels4u are adequate for beach inventory, but less so elsewhere).
- Cook is pretty satisfied with the air product it currently carries (has many carriers through its Partners Software-run system and also owns the Netflights/Gold Medal brands).
- The rather ironic relationship with its number one target, Expedia (it powers the Thomas Cook dynamic packaging system), will end.