Thomas Cook to expand into the Middle East

Debt hit UK tour operator Thomas Cook plans to expand it’s brand across the Middle East next year, bidding to be the second largest tour operator in the Middle East

Al Futtaim Travel confirmed that they will launch Thomas Cook Holiday shops in Dubai as well as on line booking channels and expand the operation over the Arabian peninsular over the next three years.

Samantha Watson, marketing and sales manager, Al-Futtaim Travel said Thomas Cook would become a serious contender in the market to Emirates Holidays – the tour operating arm of Emirates Airlines.

The news comes as Thomas Cook confirmed it is to close 200 – or almost one in six of its 1,300 travel agents in Britain, resulting in up to 1,000 job loses as part of a cost-saving UK restructure plan.

The embattled tour operator was forced to arrange a £200million credit facility with 17 bank lenders as it seeks to recover from an annual net loss of £521 million.

Watson said Middle East consumers would still have confidence in the Thomas Cook brand despite the company’s recent financial troubles taking into account that Thomas Cook’s 150-year history has weathered many economic global crisis.

Thomas Cook blamed poor sales on a series of unforeseen events such as the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud and uprisings in the Arab world. The tour operator said it plans to ramp up holiday packages to the UAE in 2012 in an attempt to offset losses caused by political unrest in the region.