The Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) has described the collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook as "seriously bad news" for Tobago's tourism industry. The association also repeated its call for an international in-transit desk to be immediately established in Piarco to ease the passage of international arrivals bound for Tobago.
The 178-year-old company ceased operations on Monday, leaving thousands of its passengers stranded all over the world.
In Tobago, business owners are already counting their losses, even as the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd takes immediate steps to mitigate the damaging impact.
"It means the loss of our winter Thomas Cook flight from Manchester," the THTA said in a statement.
Thomas Cook Group was a British global travel group. It was formed on June 19, 2007, by the merger of Thomas Cook AG (itself the successor to Thomas Cook & Son) and My Travel Group. The group operated in two separate segments: a tour operator and an airline. Thomas Cook went into compulsory liquidation on Monday.
The THTA said while Thomas Cook Condor will continue to trade because, from a legal standpoint, they are considered separate to the UK parent company and are not under the jurisdiction of the UK's official receiver, they do share services such as aircraft and IT with their parent company and will need to "strike rescue deals" in the coming weeks to keep trading.
"If Condor does not survive, it would mean that we would have no flight from mainland Europe. In the past, we had Martin Air, Lauda and more recently, Apollo, as well as Condor. So, this will be another hammer blow for the sector in Tobago."
The association added: "The Thomas Cook situation has been ongoing for many months and although we thought that the £700 million promised to the company by FOSON (a Chinese company) would have saved the company, it has not."
TTAL TO MITIGATE IMPACT
TTAL, in an immediate response, said it has taken steps to mitigate the impact on the local tourist industry. In a joint statement with the Division of Tourism, TTAL said it has been "monitoring the developments surrounding Thomas Cook Airlines in recent weeks."
It said a decision was taken earlier this year to continue the airline’s winter service from November, 2019 to March 2020, but the marketing agreement was not yet signed.
TTAL CEO Louis Lewis said the immediate strategy will be to direct customers through its travel partners to the alternative services of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic that operate year-round weekly services out of Gatwick, London to Tobago.
“The team will continue to look at other airlines to provide service to the destination and work with our trade partners in the best interest of Tobago," Lewis said.
“Our resolve is to ensure that Tobago is accessible from our major source markets.”
TTAL said Condor has advised that the direct flight year-round service from Frankfurt, Germany to Tobago will operate as planned despite the collapse of Thomas Cook Tour Operator and Thomas Cook Airline in the UK.
Tourism Secretary Nadine Stewart-Phillips acknowledged, "The situation at Thomas Airlines is unfortunate given the importance of the UK market to the island.”
She added the impact is global and Tobago is not unique in feeling the repercussions. She assured the public and stakeholders that TTAL and her division would continue to work assiduously with existing carriers to ensure the impact on the destination is not severe.