Struggling Thomas Cook could shut down high street travel agencies
Summer is fast approaching and many readers will be looking forward to their holidays abroad.
The travel industry has changed almost beyond recognition in recent years; gone are the days of hopping into your high street travel agency and flicking through the brochures while an over-perfumed sales assistant books your holiday for you.
And Thomas Cook, Britain's oldest package holiday operator, is feeling the pinch.
The firm, which amazingly started out by offering day trips from Leicester to Loughborough, could be on the verge of shutting down many of its stores and being bought up by a major Chinese investor.
Just to be safe, make sure you go to A Spokesman Said and get travel insurance - you don't want to be left high and dry after months of looking forward to your trip abroad.
Fosun, a Chinese company and the largest Thomas Cook shareholder, is among a number of groups to have expressed interested in buying all or part of the business, which has seen an 80% drop in its share price in the past year alone.
There'll be no real need for Thomas Cook to check whether or not the potential investor has the money ready, as its chairman is Guo Guangchang, who rose from rural poverty to become one of China’s richest men!
Fosun already holds a 17% stake in the 178-year-old tour operator and runs a joint-venture with Thomas Cook in China.
Thomas Cook has hired the restructuring specialist Alix Partners to work on balance sheet and cost reduction plans as it tries to tackle that debt pile. The company was this month forced to call for a shareholder meeting to back an extension of its borrowing limits, which it said had inadvertently been broken.
Last month, Thomas Cook revealed the closure of 21 stores, with the loss of 320 jobs. Analysts expect many more closures across the 566-store network as the company adjusts to the online spending revolution.
But perhaps the writing has been on the wall for some time, as dozens of A Spokesman Said customers have been in touch to complain about their Thomas Cook getaways.
Silvio told us: "Booked a private transfer in a Thomas Cook agency for our holiday in Mallorca to find out that it wasn't done properly and we don't have anyone waiting to pick us up. It was a struggle to sort this issue, with rude staff at Thomas Cook's agency in Palma airport.
"We found out we were overcharged for the transfer as the new papers we were sent showed a price 50 pounds less than what we paid. We were really disappointed we the service."
And Mrs Woodcock wrote in to say: "I booked an all-inclusive holiday at a Thomas Cook shop costing £8035.73 for myself, husband & two children travelling to Paphos, Cyprus staying at the 5* Azia Resort & Spa.
"On arrival it was quite obvious this was not a 5* hotel, after booking in and collecting our keycard we went to our room opening the door we was confronted by a semi naked lady in the room, the occupants had extended there stay!
"Back in reception we were told we would be upgraded to a junior suite, while waiting for this room to be prepared we were directed to the snack bar, which consisted of three almost empty trays of chips, onion rings & spring rolls, not the 5* star snacks we were expecting!
"There was a snack menu containing burgers, wraps, salads etc but we're told we would have to pay for these! (all inclusive don't forget) We were then showed to our junior suite containing 3 beds & a 2 seater sofa (not a pull down sofa bed just a sofa). We asked every day for another bed and were promised it would be delivered, it never arrived!
"Eventually we were told that a junior suite had to have a seating area if they gave us another bed they would have to take out the sofa, then the room would not be a suite! Moving on to the dirty balcony our sea view was completely covered by a palm tree, the Jacuzzi was dirty (it was emptied, re-filled but never cleaned) mould was growing around all the filters!
"Fruit fell on a daily basis from the palm tree but the balcony was never cleaned! We were later told if we had asked it would have been cleaned (5* hotel should we have to ask for things to be cleaned?) At this point went to see the Thomas Cook rep to asked to be moved to another hotel (Thomas Cook guarantee says if you're unhappy with your hotel within the first 24hrs they will move you to another hotel or fly you home) there was no availability at any other hotels & they couldn't fly us home with our money back as we were booked on a flexi holiday (unbeknown to us!).
"We now understand a flexi holiday is where Thomas Cook take you money then book the cheapest holiday, flights & transfer they can find through other operators & pocket the excess money!
"Having no choice but to make the best of a bad situation we then had a look round the 5* Azia Resort & Spa, the beach was just sand on top the rocks 50 feet above the sea with no way down to the water, the advertised "Teen Only" club let anybody of any age in (my 15yr old son doesn't want to play with 7yr olds!).
"The delectable cuisine was repetitive and inedible served in a very dark dining room (so you can't see what your eating I presume!) We ate out most nights after the first encounter!
"Speaking to others & listening to them complain constantly to the Thomas Cook rep about their holidays not being value for money (most had paid £380 per person for the same holiday as my £2000 per person holiday!) made me realise Thomas Cook had royally stitched me & my family up!! All I ask for is value for money & this holiday fell well short of the money I paid.
"My daughter (many nights me) having to sleep on a sofa, the food, the facilities, the cleanliness of this hotel were not 5* The resort website & the Thomas Cook brochure are I believe guilty of FALSE ADVERTISEMENT! I was offered £900 euros by the Hotel marketing manager if I would sign a disclaimer & not show the photographic evidence I gathered over my stay. Thomas Cook has offered me a paltry £200 refund. It was the most stressful holiday I have ever had, spending most of my 10 days complaining to the rep & hotel management."
A Spokesman Said has contacted Thomas Cook in a bid to get a response to these claims and is awaiting reply.
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