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Published on Monday, February 22, 2021

Sunny Heart Travel to go live on 1 March

Sunny Heart Travel, a new tour operation born from the wreckage of the Thomas Cook collapse, is set to go live on 1 March, selling packages to key destinations for summer 2021.

The online operator, which postponed its launch from September amid the second wave of Covid, will offer holidays to a range of destinations, including the Canaries, Spain, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt.

Long haul holidays in Thailand, the Caribbean, Mexico and Australia among others will also be available, along with cruising, tours and winter 21/22 product.

The business will initially operate a direct-sell model, with the site offering departures from 1 May.

The venture is the brainchild of former Thomas Cook IT manager Steve Bentzen, who began working on the project in November in 2019, two months after Thomas Cook went to the wall.

Ten of the operator's 15 staff are ex-Thomas Cook staff, some of them retail agents.

Bentzen told Travelmole he wanted Sunny Heart Travel to be ready for the re-opening of international travel.

"When we started this, after Thomas Cook collapsed, the business case was based on the fact there were millions of Thomas Cook customers wanting to go on holiday," he said. "Then Covid arrived.

"But I think the busines case has got even keener because of the pent up demand. There's people with money who haven't been able to go on holiday for a long time.

"We postponed our launch from September because of the second wave, but everything I read now is suggesting that it may all free up soon, so we're getting into a position to be ready for that.

"We've waited a long time for this and we can't wait to get going."

Bentzen said he had been 'inundated' with Destination Management Companies wanting to work with Sunny Heart Travel, many of which were former partners of Thomas Cook.

"They were desperate to work with us, they hadn't worked with a UK tour operator since Thomas Cook, " Bentzen said. "I spent about three months talking with DMCs and we now have all these contracts in place.

"One of the most humbling parts of the organisation is the way that our in-resort partners have taken on the Sunny Heart ethos of great customer service, transparency and value for money.

"They have negotiated fantastic rates with the most spectacular of hotels and gone even further to give us launch deals that I'm really proud to offer."

Bentzen said pricing will be 'keen', partly due to its low overheads.

"But we also want to enter the market and be competitive," he said.

Sunny Heart Travel has an ATOL for 1000 passengers which Bentzen described as a 'starting point'.

"My vision for 2021 is to grow as customers get used to travelling again and ensure that we always have enough great staff to answer all of our customer needs," he said.

"We have taken the view that the online search is just the start of the journey and speaking to a real person is essential to customer confidence.

"Many of our homeworking staff are ex-retail and they bring along that passion for customer service.

"I want customers to feel that in Sunny Heart they can find a very knowledgeable single point of contact to deal with, albeit remotely.

"Training and testing is currently ongoing in preparation for launch and there is a real feeling that we are all at the start of a very exciting journey.

The booking site is being driven by Traveltek technology with Bentzen saying search results are returned in 'under a second'.

Marketing will be handled by digital creative agency Unbxd.

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