Tuesday 12 December 2017

Olympic breaks at bargain prices

City experts suggested that Thomas Cook could lose up to £10 million on its Olympic packages. Photo: Reuters
City experts suggested that Thomas Cook could lose up to £10 million on its Olympic packages. Photo: Reuters

Nathalie Thomas, Donna Bowater and James Hall

Olympics hospitality packages that had been expected to sell for €8000 are being offered to the public for as little as €125 after a slump in demand.

Thomas Cook still has almost a quarter of its 300,000 tickets for the Games to sell following worse than expected sales among its corporate customers.

The travel company, which is one of the official tour operators for London 2012, bought the tickets to sell to business clients as part of lavish packages.

The deals were priced between €744 and €8000 and included five-star restaurant meals and a stay in the Waldorf Hilton hotel in central London.

But the lacklustre response from companies, which has been blamed on the recession, meant Thomas Cook was forced to offer them to the public.

“UK corporations are less interested in buying our Olympics packages. Maybe their profits are stretched or they think they shouldn’t be buying these,” said Sam

Weihagen, its interim chief executive. “We’re transferring a lot of them to regular customers and there is huge demand.”

Of its 300,000 tickets from the Olympics organising committee, Thomas Cook had hoped to sell 40 per cent as part of corporate hospitality packages but the figure is likely to be closer to 30 per cent.

With just two months to go until the opening ceremony, the company said it was repackaging unsold tickets with cheaper hotels to attract “normal” customers with prices as low as €125. A spokesman said the deals were likely to include accommodation in venues such as the Holiday Inn chain instead of the Waldorf Hilton and would not include food or corporate hospitality.

“We’ve got the licence to sell Olympic tickets with rooms,” she said. “We’ve got strong interest from consumers but we don’t have as much interest as we had hoped from corporates.

“What we’re doing is switching these packages. They’re not the same packages but there will probably be more available.”

Asked if the corporate packages had been overpriced to begin with, she replied: “It may be that, but I suspect it is other factors as well.”

City experts suggested that the company could lose up to €12 million on its Olympic packages.

Ticketing for the Games has been beset by problems, with many customers reporting problems with the Ticketmaster website through which sales are made. Almost a third of tickets that went on sale this month remain unsold and more than 1.3 million football tickets are still available.

Following criticism of the prices to be charged for refreshments at Olympic events, it has emerged that spectators could find themselves without cash to spend anyway.

Visa, one of the official sponsors, has requested that 27 cash machines run by rival companies in venues are closed for the duration of the Games, meaning that those without Visa debit or credit cards will not be able to withdraw cash.

A spokesman for Visa Europe said the company had the right to manage the entire “payment system infrastructure” at all Olympic venues.


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