Former Thomas Cook staff to launch online tour operator in Peterborough

A new online tour operator is to be launched in Peterborough by a group of former Thomas Cook staff.

Friday, 11th September 2020, 4:30 am
Sunny Heart Travel chief executive Steve Bentzen and Jemma Sharman, chief information officer.

Sunny Heart Travel has five former staff from the holiday giant plus development teams overseas and is looking for other ex-Thomas Cook employees to join them.

The aim is to launch the business online by the end of the year with retail outlets possibly being opened in a second phase of the venture’s development.

Its name is a nod to the famous heart logo used by Thomas Cook, which employed about 1,000 people at its head office in Lynch Wood before it collapse 12 months ago.

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The logo of Sunny Heart Travel.

The new business, which was registered last October, has been founded by former Thomas Cook IT programme manager Steve Bentzen, who is chief executive, and former Thomas Cook IT project manager Jemma Sharman, who is chief information officer.

Mr Bentzen, who was responsible for installing wi-fi in Thomas Cook’s shops network, said: “Sunny Heart Travel was built from scratch, the name and logo are trademark registered and we have our ATOL licence, which took three to four months to get.”

The business will provide traditional packages and dynamic packages, cruises, tours and ancillaries, from budget hostels to high-end hotels and has 32 cruise lines and two million hotels among its offering.

“We are a wholly UK privately owned company and our intention is to take on as many ex-Thomas Cook colleagues as possible as we grow.

“We are based in Peterborough, which was the centre of Thomas Cook operations.”

The outbreak of the Covid pandemic and restrictions on travel have hit the holiday industry particularly hard.

But Mr Bentzen said: “We are ready to launch as soon as the nation’s confidence in travel returns. I personally think airport testing will go a long way towards that.”

He said that low operational costs and low prices would allow Sunny Heart Travel to stand out from other travel agents.

He added: “We have put a lot of thought into our online customer journey in order to give our clients the best booking experience, before enjoying their best holiday experience.

“Our unique selling point is our lean operational model, purpose built for online sales. This means we can offer incredible prices throughout the year, not just during off peak seasons.”

The launch of the new tour operator comes at the same time as it has been reported that the Thomas Cook brand could be revived as an online travel agency owned by Chinese investment company Fosun.

Following the collapse of Thomas Cook, many of its staff were recruited by Sunderland-based Hays Travel.

Anyone who would like to apply to Sunny Heart Travel should send their curriculum vitae to [email protected]

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