An opportunity for Thomas Cook

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One of Europe’s leading operators hasn’t joined the cruise rush, Thomas Cook, unlike rival TUI has not engaged in chartering ships or running its own cruise line.

As Thomson Cruises is rebranded and reposistioned as TUI Cruises with the arrival of Mein Schiff 1 & 2 as well as TUI Discovery 1 & 2. There is the potential for Thomas Cook to sneek in and pick up where Thomson left off.

The reason Thomas Cook doesn’t operate a cruise line can be found in its history, Thomas Cook Group PLC was formed by the merger of MyTravel PLC and Thomas Cook AG in 2007. Prior to the merger MyTravel had long been suffering from a poor rebrand and heavy debt from extensive growth.

MyTravel, under its previous name, Airtours, had founded Sun Cruises to operate a fleet of former NCL and Royal Caribbean ships on three/four star cruises. These proved successful in the mid 90’s. The success of the cruise operation was enough to prompt Thomson to relaunch it’s cruise arm. In 2004, with MyTravel in a poor financial state and the cruise market increasingly competitive the cruise line was closed and the ships sold to Louis Cruises. MyTravel’s Sunbird joined Thomson as Thomson Destiny, with Thomson cashing in on its rivals closure.

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Since the merger the company’s performance continued to decline, until a change in direction and a restructuring plan was developed under the lead of CEO Harriet Green. Following her departure the company has another option to consider its growth plans, and to me a reentry into the cruise market is the right way to go. There are several options for the company –

The company could partner with Celestyal Cruises, the former Louis Cruise Lines, and charter the ships which seem set to leave the Thomson cruise lines – namely Thomson Majesty and Thomson Celebration. These ships have a popular following in the UK and this would be an easy way into the cruise market.

An alternative partner could be Norwegian Cruise Lines, Norwegian Sky and Sun would make a strong UK start up cruise line. The strength of the Thomas Cook brand and its European network would really help the line.

Since MSC really became committed to developing its cruise business I have considered that they need to diversify their brand portfolio., however adding the strong brand of Thomas Cook to and MSC ship could really help kick sales in the UK, MSC Sinfonia or Armonia would be the ideal candidates for launching the line.

Of course the company doesn’t need to actually partner with anyone and could attempt to develop a cruise line on its own, however this is a high risk option without guaranteed results. A cruise line would hopefully remove the worry about package holiday sales which Thomas Cook is so prone to, especially following the issues in Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt.

If I was Thomas Cook I would partner with NCL, however in the short term lease the former Thomson ships from Celestyal. Both NCL and Thomas Cook would benefit from this partnership.

Would you cruise with Thomas Cook?

Thanks & Regards,
Liam
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