November 24 - Thomas Cook has moved to reassure its Olympic customers that they will get to the Games at London 2012 – no matter what.
The travel group is the official short break provider to London 2012 and, as such, is marketing exclusive ticket-plus-accommodation packages online and in more than 800 UK stores.
For example, it is currently offering a women's football plus hotel break at £99 ($154/€115) per person; a two-night tennis break is priced at £999 ($1,550/€1,160) per person and a one-day dressage break from £229 ($356/€267) per person.
It is marketing some of these packages as a "unique Christmas gift".
These are not easy times for the leisure industry, however, and the company's share price plunged on Tuesday (November 22) after it published an update announcing it was in talks with banks and would delay announcement of its full-year results.
The update read: "Thomas Cook Group plc announces that as a result of deterioration of trading in some areas of the business in the current quarter, and of its cash and liquidity position since its year end, the Company is in discussions with its principal lending banks with regard to its facilities during the seasonal low period of cash in the business.
"While the Company currently remains in compliance with its financing covenants, it also intends to seek agreement from its lending banks to adjustments that will improve its resilience if trading conditions remain difficult.
"As a result, the Company will delay its announcement of its full year results until these discussions are concluded.
"The Company expects to report a headline operating profit for the year ended 30 September 2011 broadly in line with previous guidance."
The shares have since stabilised at a much lower level, leaving the group's market capitalisation at below £130 million ($202 million/€151 million).
Thomas Cook told insidethegames that its Olympic customers would get to the Games, primarily because the company remained confident in its future, but also because London 2012 had said it would honour the tickets.
UK-based customers were also protected by the company's ABTA bond, which should ensure, if necessary, that they received a refund for accommodation booked and paid for.
If the worst did come to the worst and the ABTA compensation was activated – which the company repeatedly reiterated it did not expect to happen: "We are going to be here for a long time yet" – then customers clearly might face the inconvenience of having to try and find alternative hotel accommodation, though they should not be out of pocket.
But they would still get into their 100 metres final, or whatever Olympic event they had booked to see.
A London 2012 spokesperson said: "Thomas Cook has confirmed that it is 'business as usual' for them, and people can continue to book Games Breaks through them with confidence."
It would not say whether Thomas Cook had paid all the sponsorship money due, saying: "We'd never go into the payment terms of a contract with a sponsor or supplier."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
August 2011: Thomas Cook ploughs £500,000 in to sport for disadvantaged children
July 2011: Thomas Cook now the only outlet for London 2012 tickets following second ballot
June 2011: Demand skyrockets for Thomas Cook London 2012 packages following first Olympic ticket ballot
October 2009: Thomas Cook unveiled as £20 million London 2012 sponsor