The Co-operative Travel
The Co-operative Travel logo
|Product type||Travel agency|
|Owner||The Co-operative Group|
|Related brands||The Co-operative brand|
The Co-operative Travel is a travel agency brand used by some independent retail co-operatives in the United Kingdom, such as Midcounties Co-operative, through their access to The Co-operative brand. Between 2011 and 2016 the brand was also used by TCCT Retail Limited, a travel agency run as a joint venture between the Thomas Cook Group, The Co-operative Group and Central England Co-operative.
TCCT Retail was based at the Peterborough Business Park at Lynch Wood, Peterborough. It was a member of ABTA and held an ATOL licence; it also acted as an agent for licensed tour operators. In 2016, Thomas Cook completed a buy-out of The Co-operative Group and Central England Co-operative's 33.5% shareholding. The website closed in 2017 and all existing bookings were transferred to Thomas Cook. During 2017–18 Thomas Cook rebranded its The Co-operative Travel branches to the Thomas Cook name.
Several co-operatives around the UK operate independent travel agents that make use of the Co-operative brand. The Midcounties Co-operative is the largest independent co-operative currently using the “Co-op Travel” brand within the UK, trading on and offline throughout the UK from their headquarters in Walsall.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society opened its first Excursion Department in 1905, to work with railways, steamers, and tour operators to get the best rates for co-operative society's excursions. In 1920, CWS arranged its first overseas excursion and published its first holiday guide. By the 1950s, the CWS Travel Service had become one of the five largest travel agencies in Britain and had begun to organise air travel for co-operative societies and their members.
CWS Travel became known as Travelcare when the Co-operative Wholesale Society merged with Co-operative Retail Services in 2000 to form The Co-operative Group. The Co-operative Travel was formed by the integration of the Manchester-based Travelcare business with United Co-operatives' Co-op Travel subsidiary on the merger of the two societies in 2007.
It was announced in 2010, that Co-op Group Travel 1 Ltd. and Midlands Co-op Travel Ltd. would merge with the retail branches of Thomas Cook Group. The joint venture did not include the latter's tour operating arm, which remained wholly within the Thomas Cook Group. The new network was 66.5%-owned by Thomas Cook, 30%-owned by The Co-operative Group and 3.5%-owned by Central England Co-operative. Both chains retained their own branding, except for the small number of Thomas Cook's "Going Places" shops which were rebranded as The Co-operative Travel. The partnership arrangement helped to retain the heritage and ethics of The Co-operative brand and to ensure the consistency of message.
The merger included the Co-operative's home-working division, Future Travel Limited, trading as "The Co-operative Personal Travel Advisors". These consultants worked from home, primarily by telephone, providing the same range of services as the High Street branches but for extended opening hours.
In 2010, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) was given 45 working days to review whether to formally oppose the merger. The Office of Fair Trading requested a referral from the European Commission and, in turn, referred the case to the Competition Commission in March 2011. In July 2011, it was announced that the Competition Commission raised no objections to the merger. As a result of the merger, the business became part of the Thomas Cook Group.
In 2016 the Co-operative Group decided that having a minority stake in a travel business no longer fit with its strategy and said that it would exercise its option to quit the joint venture. Thomas Cook announced it would buy out the stakes owned by The Co-operative Group and Central England Co-operative, taking full control of the retail network and rebranding the high street travel stores that had operated under the Co-operative brand gradually during 2017–18. Thomas Cook's UK travel agencies were sold to Hays Travel in 2019 after Thomas Cook had been liquidated.
Despite its involvement in the joint venture, Central England Co-operative also operates a network of Co-operative Travel branches which are managed separately from Thomas Cook. This arises from the 2013 merger of the Midlands Co-operative Society who had joined the venture and the Anglia Regional Co-operative Society which continued to operate its travel branches independently.
The Co-operative Travel offered package holidays, city breaks, hotels, flights, cruises and skiing holidays to a wide range of destinations. Foreign exchange services were also available, including American Express traveller's cheques. The Co-operative Travel Cash Passport was issued by Travelex; travel insurance was underwritten by White Horse Insurance Ireland. All flights and flight-inclusive holidays were financially protected by the ATOL scheme.
- CWS Travel – Travel Brochure Archived 20 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine The Co-operative Group, 25 June 2013
- Top UK co-ops agree merger terms BBC News, 17 February 2007 03:29 GMT
- Incorporated in 2011 and registered in England and Wales under the Companies Act 1985, No. 7413801
- Registered in England and Wales under the Companies Act 1985, No. 4132544
- "Landmark deal to create the UK's largest travel retail network". The Co-operative Group. 8 October 2010. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. The Co-operative Group, 8 October 2010
- Gosling, Paul What is the future of The Co-operative Travel? Co-operative News, 26 September 2013
- The Co-operative Travel The Co-operative Group (retrieved 8 May 2013) Archived 11 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Future Travel name to go in Co-op rebrand TTG Digital, 24 November 2010 Archived 21 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- OFT to review planned Thomas Cook – Co-op Travel merger Daily Mail, 7 January 2011
- Competition Commission approves Thomas Cook and Co-operative Travel merger Travel Weekly, 21 July 2011
- Jillian Ambrose (6 December 2016). "Thomas Cook to take over Co-op travel stores". The Telegraph.
- Simon Gwynn (6 December 2016). "Co-operative Travel to disappear from high street as Thomas Cook confirms full takeover". Campaign. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
- Mark Sweney (9 October 2019). "Up to 2,500 Thomas Cook jobs saved as UK stores bought up". The Guardian.
- ATOL No. 6613