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Thomas Cook reports on mission to move its business further online

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More of Thomas Cook’s holidays are now booked online, the travel company said this week as it reported on the first year of a transformation programme that aims to shift the balance of the business from the high street to online.

The company aims to see more than half its holidays bought over the internet in two years time, by the end of its 2015 financial year. This week Thomas Cook said that 36% of its holidays were booked over the internet in the year to September 30, up from 34% at the same time last year.

Ecommerce sites for six key markets are currently being moved into a common platform, while a digital advisory board, made up of external web experts and supporting product innovation and digital recruitment, has now been appointed. Beyind the UK, online bookings rose in all Thomas Cook’s markets; in Scandinavia, web penetration is now over 70%.

So far, new digital innovations introducing during the year include DreamCapture, which takes in-store holiday discussions online so that customers can continue to research their ideas from home. But the company is also developing a high tech, high touch approach to booking holidays through personalised, quality assured digital services. At the same time, the company has reduced its retail store numbers by 21% to 874 at the end of September, from 1,101 at the beginning of the transformation programme.

The update came as Thomas Cook reported revenues rising to £9.315bn in the year to September 30, from £9.195bn at the same time last year. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £207m from £590m last time. But earnings before interest and tax rose to £13m from a loss of £170m last time.

Chief executive Harriet Green said that a year into the programme, Thomas Cook was back on “a firm trajectory of profitable growth,” with costs cut more quickly than planned, net debt halved and an operational profit reported. “Yet,” she said, “the implementation of our strategy for sustainable profitable growth has only just begun. With our systemised approach to business, our products, people and processes and our powerful unified brand, we are confident of delivering significantly more.”

Other key moves for Thomas Cook during the year have included the simplication of brand labels from 85 to 30, the development of exclusive concept hotels and the widening of city break holidays.

News of recovery at Thomas Cook comes just two years after the travel company was forced to reassure holidaymakers that it was business as usual as its debts rose towards £1bn.

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