China here we come!

Thomas Cook China builds bespoke hotel & resorts business with own-brand hotels

Alessandro Dassi, CEO Thomas Cook China, was yesterday interviewed in the Knowledge Theatre here at ITB Asia, under the subject title of “Reinventing Thomas Cook to win over the Chinese travellers”. We started by asking him to tell us about the formation of Thomas Cook China.

Thomas Cook China is a joint venture company between Thomas Cook Group, one of the world’s leading travel groups, and Fosun, a leading Chinese investment group with operations globally. The venture combines Thomas Cook’s brand heritage, know-how and expertise in international travel with Fosun’s in-depth local market knowledge and operational resources. The business was formally launched in September 2016.

What is new from Thomas Cook China in 2018?
Over 2018, we consolidated our position as a premium, lifestyle travel brand targeted at younger, digitally savvy Chinese customers, while remaining loyal to Thomas Cook’s original values: heritage, pioneering spirit, product and service quality.
Today, we offer a wide range of travel products and services across multiple distribution channels, combining our own web platform with digital stores on key Chinese marketplaces such as Alibaba.
This year also saw the launch of our Hotel & Resorts business aimed at developing our own- brand hotels for the domestic leisure market in China. The first of these has been announced as a Sunwing hotel, Thomas Cook’s family brand, near Shanghai. This will be a 260-room Sunwing family resort as part of the second phase in the million-square-metre family holiday destination in Jiashian. Sunwing Jiashian will join a large theme park, theatre, family resort, signature restaurants as well as extensive waterside living when it opens in summer 2020.
The project will be the first hotel to be created and managed by Thomas Cook China specifically for Chinese customers, and builds on the popularity of the two Sunwing hotels in Thailand, Sunwing Kamala Beach and Sunwing Bangtao Beach, where Chinese customers now account for almost 40% of total bookings.

THE BEHAVIOUR OF CHINESE TRAVELLERS IS CHANGING AT A RAPID PACE

How is Thomas Cook China using technology to grow its business?
We took the decision two years ago to develop our own technology in China, as opposed to using systems used in other parts of the Thomas Cook Group. This enabled us to build a technology which is fully localised and tailored for our Thomas Cook China business. The new systems have made our business more scalable by automating a lot of our product sourcing and giving quick access to distribution across China.

How is the Chinese travel market developing?
The behaviour of Chinese travellers is changing at a rapid pace. Mass group tours are no longer the norm, with demand shifting towards more personalised and customised travel experiences. While Chinese consumers remain very price sensitive, they are no longer willing to compromise on quality. This opens up opportunities for newcomers like us at Thomas Cook China.

What is your offering in terms of holiday products and destinations and how has this evolved?
We have an extensive product offering covering many tourist destinations around the world. Our focus is on a core portfolio of differentiated products featuring curated travel experiences, from tours, hotel packages and sports themed travel, which is complemented by a wide range of third party hotels and local destination activities digitally sourced and distributed. Where are your most popular destinations? Our top destinations are Japan and Thailand, followed by Morocco and Turkey where we offer a range of small group tours and private tours.

How is the MICE area progressing from Thomas Cook China?
What are the opportunities? Our MICE business is largely inbound, where we service overseas organisations visiting China. The greatest potential for us in the area of sports, where we have already established a leading position as the preferred travel service provider of many clubs and sports organisations.


Photo: Alessandro Dassi, CEO, Thomas Cook China