Sunbed wars could be over, at least at a handful of holiday hotels run by Thomas Cook.
A lifetime after the Mediterranean package holiday was created, the tour operator has finally come up with a system for booking a specific sunlounger — with no need to make a dawn swoop with towels to reserve a spot by the pool.
Thomas Cook has launched a trial called, unsurprisingly, “Choose Your Favourite Sunbed”. Starting next month at three hotels, it will allow holidaymakers to pre-pay €25 to guarantee use of the same sunlounger throughout their holiday.
If the trial at three properties proves successful, it will be available in 30 Thomas Cook branded hotels from the start of the summer season.
The firm’s UK managing director, Chris Mottershead, described traditional package holidays as “a thing of the past”, saying: “Holidaymakers today want to personalise their package, mixing and matching the elements that best fit their needs and lifestyle.”
Customers who are eligible will be emailed six days before departure, with a link to a map showing the available sunbeds and their prices.
“Then all you have to do is decide where you’d like to be. Maybe you want a nice cool corner in the shade? Or perhaps you want to be close to the kids’ pool? The choice is yours,” says the company.
“It’ll be yours for the duration of your holiday, meaning it’ll still be there when you come back from your lunch. So relax and enjoy!”
It is not clear how the assigned sunloungers will be policed. A maximum of 20 per cent of sunbeams will be pre-allocated, and the firm says: “Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee everyone will be offered this option due to operational reasons*
The firm also recently launched a Choose Your Room trial, allowing pre-selection of specific rooms for a charge of €30.
Battles for sunbeds between British and German holidaymakers have long been part of travel lore, but some senior industry figures regard claims of Germans rising early to put towels on sunbeds as phoney. In 2000, the pioneering tour operator Rene Chandler, of The Travel Club of Upminster, said: ”This [claim] is something that started after the war“.
The Sun headlined its print story “They Think It’s Towel Over”, and quoted the former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, as saying: “It’s nice to be ahead of the Germans for once. Another Brexit bonus!”
Thomas Cook, an Anglo-German firm, has recently lost its place as the UK’s second-biggest tour operator to Jet2 Holidays. TUI is Britain’s biggest holiday company.