Thomas Cook is the latest European travel company to file for administration or go through liquidation in the past decade. In the airline sector, Air Berlin Plc, Germany’s second-largest carrier, filed for administration in 2017. Iceland’s Wow Air closed down in November after a failed merger with Icelandair, and French airline Aigle Azur will cease business at the end of the month.
While the liquidation of the British Travel giant won’t have a massive effect on South African tourism. It had provided a significant number of tourists to the country, but not the majority. The company that invented the package holiday ceased to operate overnight, with all of its flights and bookings canceled. Most of the tourists are from the UK with an estimated 150,000 people, followed by Germany with about 140,000 holidaymakers.
Charmaine Thome, Southern Africa GM at Aviareps, a Thomas Cook general sales agent, says customers currently on holiday through Thomas Cook need to be repatriated while those who have bought tickets through Thomas Cook airlines will be able to get a refund. She adds that Aviareps will not experience any job losses as a result of the travel group’s liquidation.
In Tunisia, the country’s tourism minister, René Trabelsi, said hotels were owed about €60m from Thomas Cook for stays in July and August. “I will have a meeting on Tuesday with the British embassy in Tunisia and the hotel owners to see how debt could be redeemed,” he said.
Out of all this turmoil and confusion, the worst part is perhaps the lost revenue that sustains countless jobs in the industry. South Africa, like many African countries depends on forex from Western markets to provide employment in the tourism industry. This liquidation comes at a time when the country is avidly preparing for the festive season. Many travellers will be repatriated home, while others who have already booked or planning to book, will either not travel at all or plan their trip for a different destination. Only time will tell the true impact of this unfortunate collapse of a global travel company.