Comment: Will sunbed trial take off?

Comment: Will sunbed trial take off?

There is little doubt about the biggest travel story at the start of this week.

Thomas Cook’s introduction of bookable sunbeds in its own-brand hotels made national news headlines on TV, online and in print.

It was not bad publicity for a trial in just three hotels that adds £22 to the cost of an entire holiday. Anyone planning a fortnight away might consider £1.57 a day a bargain.

Much of the media coverage was tongue in cheek, with footage of holidaymakers sprinting for pool loungers, pundits declaring the end of “towel wars” and the Daily Mail reporting Cook’s German customers will also be able to book sunbeds online under the headline ‘Zis means war’.

Industry responses ranged from dismissing the move as a “publicity stunt” or “purely a commercial move” to suggesting it was not before time. How Cook will manage customers booking sunbeds they subsequently leave free when other clients want a place by the pool is unclear. But that is the point of a trial, after all.

Cook’s intention to offer customers the option six days before departure makes sense, although it cuts out agents. But retailers can still add value for their clients by explaining they will have the choice.

Whether pre-booked sunbeds take off will depend on demand, and some would argue that Cook should have offered it as added value rather than as an additional money maker. Ultimately, if people pay, it will prove a good idea. If they don’t think it’s worth the money, Cook will quietly move on.

Would I pay an extra £88 for sunbeds for my family? Not to be in the sun. But if it was the way to ensure I could have a sunbed next to the pool to be able to see my kids, then I guess I probably would.

Comment from Travel Weekly, January 31 edition

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