The CC has provisionally approved the proposed travel agency joint venture between Thomas Cook, the Cooperative Group and the Midlands Co-operative Society. The proposed joint venture would combine two of the three largest travel agents on the UK high street.
The CC investigated the potential impact of the joint venture on the package and independent holiday sectors, and in relation to bricks-and-mortar travel agents on the high street. In particular, the CC found that there is relatively limited competitive interaction between rival travel agencies on the high street and, further, the incentives for the proposed joint venture to increase prices or worsen its retail offer at a wider regional or national level are even weaker than at local level.
The CC also looked at the potential foreclosure effect caused by Co-op and Midlands outlets favouring Thomas Cook package holidays over those from other providers and the potential for the proposed joint venture to stop or otherwise hinder other travel agents from selling Thomas Cook holidays. The CC concluded that the additional promotion of Thomas Cook holidays through the proposed joint venture would make little difference and that a strategy of preventing other travel agents from selling Thomas Cook holidays would be not be (strategically or financially) rational.
The CC has invited comments on its provisional findings by 11 August 2011.