Thomas Cook owner Fosun has ambitious expansion plans for the brands he owns, once the global economy recovers.
The Chinese travel company, which also owns Club Med, expects the struggling industry to pick up sharply once a vaccine is found.
It relaunched Thomas Cook in China in July, which it describes as a success with more than 170,000 customers.
This week he relaunched the brand in the UK as an online travel agency, but says it’s only ‘phase one’.
Thomas Cook went bankrupt last year, leaving thousands of its customers stranded abroad. Since it was completely taken over by the Chinese tourism group Fosun, it has been significantly reduced.
Fosun was already a major shareholder in Thomas Cook before collapsing last September. A year later it was relaunched in the UK and China.
“In China, Thomas Cook was relaunched as more than just an online travel agency. Instead, it’s a lifestyle platform that offers a range of related products and services, ”Jim Qian, managing director and chairman of Fosun Tourism Group, told the BBC.
This lifestyle platform includes hotels, tickets, entertainment, education, and retailers selling gifts and souvenirs. It even includes a delivery business to help vacationers bring bulky purchases home.
“We first launched an online travel agency in the UK, but we want to add more and more to make it a similar platform,” Qian added.
The timing of the revival in the UK has been questioned given the current slowdown in Covid-19 travel and the strict restrictions still in place.
“It was a soft start to test the process and make sure everything is working fine before a full recovery. We will gradually add more products to this platform. “
Fosun has already seen a strong recovery in tourism in China, across all of its travel and leisure brands, which also includes upscale resort chain Club Med.
Club Med resorts are gradually reopening on a global scale and Fosun wants to develop the high-end brand. It has started building 10 new complexes to be ready by the end of 2022, with more in the works
In China, it also launched a new brand called Club Med Joyview aimed at short-term travelers.
“The businesses that can survive this travel slowdown will be much stronger on the other side because they have shown that they can be managed effectively,” Qian added.
His plan is to launch a handful of traditional Thomas Cook stores starting in Shanghai early next year. Although they are “multifunctional and more than just travel agencies”, they will not be large scale.
The first store will feature attractions such as ski machines and ski instructors, cafes serving exotic drinks and children’s education classes.
“We want to test a lot of things in China that in the future can be launched around the world. These new style concept stores show our commitment to having a strong offline presence, backed by physical complexes like the Club Med chain.
Thomas Cook has been operating in China for over 100 years. The British brand entered into a joint venture partnership with Fosun in 2016, then became fully Chinese-owned after going bankrupt last year.