Belfast Telegraph

Thomas Cook's Olympic failure costs firm £17m

By Simon Calder

Thomas Cook has revealed an unwelcome Olympics legacy: a £17m hole in its accounts after a disastrous attempt to cash in on London 2012.

The troubled travel firm blamed the loss on marketing and licensing costs for package deals that offered guaranteed tickets for the Games.

Thomas Cook was 'Official Provider of Short Breaks' for the Olympics, and it expected packages to sell strongly. But sales proved sluggish, partly because London hoteliers demanded high rates that in turn obliged Thomas Cook to price its packages high.

Barely two weeks before the opening ceremony, Thomas Cook was forced to halve some prices in order to shift unsold capacity. It made a "trading profit" of £9.6m on the Olympics, but this was wiped out by the £26.8m costs of marketing and licensing agreed with the organisers.

The bout of Olympian over-optimism came as the new chief executive of Thomas Cook, Harriet Green, revealed the full-year results. The firm made almost £7 on average from each of its 23m customers. But despite a healthy operating profit, the firm reported a loss of £590m once exceptional items were taken into account.

Ms Green, who joined the company only 17 weeks ago, said "We have clawed our way back". She said the damage done a year ago, when Thomas Cook was forced to postpone its results while seeking refinancing, had been repaired. She described Thomas Cook as a "loved brand" and said: "The business is not broken - there are pockets of excellence".

The company has shed hundreds of jobs in the past year.