The Co-operative Group hopes its new tour operation will account for 15% of its package holiday sales in the first year of trading.
The agency launched its own tour operation today in a joint venture with Cosmos Holidays.
The group will sell its own summer 2010 holidays through its travel arm, The Co-operative Travel, with 550 high street retail outlets, a website and a dedicated call centre.
Its first brochure contains more than 220 holiday options in 22 destinations.
It initially focuses on popular destinations, such as Spain, the Balearics and Florida.
"The travel industry has suffered more than most in the last 18 months as a result of the recession; a number of tour operators and airlines have ceased trading, so it may seem an inopportune moment to be launching a tour operation," said Co-operative Travel managing director Mike Greenacre.
"It is, however, a measure of the confidence that we have in our revitalised brand and in the strengths of Cosmos with nearly 50 years' experience of tour operating and Monarch, a major player for over 40 years, that we choose to launch into such a difficult marketplace.
"The Co-operative brand is enjoying a renaissance thanks to a variety of significant factors, such as the purchase of Somerfield, the merger with the Britannia Building Society and the national re-brand of the high street estate. This, coupled with the continuing trust that the public puts in our brand and a £70 million marketing investment, has paved the way for the launch of our tour operation."
Peter Brown, chief executive of Cosmos and the Monarch Travel Group, said: "The partnership is a perfect fit for both our businesses and we believe that between us we can establish a brand which offers exceptional value for money and which recognises the growing demand for sustainable tourism."
The Co-operative Travel director of commercial Shaun Hinds, who was responsible for putting the tour operation programme together, added: "In the same way that Fairtrade products and responsibly sourced food are increasingly relevant and popular at our food outlets, so we will progress our tour operation along similarly sustainable and responsible lines.
"The brochure already features some destinations that have received the 'Travelife' seal of approval - a sustainable tourism tool that demonstrates a commitment to protecting the environment and welfare of the country in which they are located.
"In addition, we now have more than three million Co-operative members who are increasingly buying their holidays from our travel business, and they will all be able to benefit further from the share of profits scheme.
"At a time when many holidaymakers are concerned about redundancy and the credit crunch, The Co-operative Travel provides them with a certainty and reassurance that their money is secure."
By Bev Fearis
Thursday, July 9, 2009