By Gina Clarke
It’s been a long-running staple of the British holiday. Grab an early breakfast and mark your territory on sunbeds via a towel, but soon, getting that golden glow might be even easier – albeit expensive, thanks to Thomas Cook.
The Anglo-German travel agent is trialling a new initiative at 3 of its poolside hotels next month with the aim to roll out across the board shortly afterwards this summer.
If you travel with this company then the next part is easy, just like booking your seat on a plane or your hotel room – you can now pre-book your sunbed lounger.
The new trial called, “Choose Your Favourite Sunbed” will allow holidaymakers to pre-pay €25 to guarantee use of the same sun lounger throughout their holiday.
Why is this needed?
With the demand for hotels with pools soaring as holidaymakers insist on topping up their tans, the rules around sunbeds have become a lot stricter.
Travel groups receive numerous complaints from customers unable to use hotel sunbeds because many are reserved by people leaving towels, books and other belongings on them.
One rush for sunbeds in one hotel in Gran Canaria was filmed last summer with guests racing from the breakfast hall to drape a towel over a sunbed – despite there being enough to meet the needs of every guest.
The hotel even employed security guards who would kick the towels off those that had been abandoned for more than 3-hours.
According to The Sun, a well-placed source at the hotel – where an estimated seven out of 10 guests are currently Brits, said the worst offenders were definitely British. This was then followed by the Irish and then some local Canarians who were on holiday and appeared to have picked up some bad habits.
The source said: “I know the British have traditionally regarded the Germans as the worst offenders but our experience is that they have breakfast first and look for a sunbed after.
“The pool opens at 8 am and there’s always a queue of people waiting at this time of the year. It’s a bit hard to fathom really because there are enough sunbeds to go around.
“We get guests laying their towels out in the morning and sometimes disappearing again till the afternoon. The problem has been getting so bad recently that hotel staff are now under instructions to remove towels on sunbeds which have been unattended for two or three hours.”
However, Thomas Cook thinks they’ve figured out a way to save the panic of the breakfast rush and the worry that that long lunch would lose you’re your prime spot. Now, for just £22 (€25 euro) your sun lounger is yours the whole of your holiday.
How will it work?
The full details are still to be released. Will there be sunbed police? We’re not sure but Thomas Cook insists that pre-booking is just a possibility. If you don’t fancy stumping up the cash or would prefer to take part in the post-Breakfast Benny Hill-esque festivities then they assure holidaymakers that there will be enough sunbeds left over for everyone else. Just a maximum of 20 percent of sunbeds will be pre-allocated, as a spokesperson for the travel agent says: “Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee everyone will be offered this option due to operational reasons.”
But the travel operator does offer some help in picking the perfect spot. Guests will be able to pick their preferred location from the comfort of their living room with help from a handy map, which will also allow customers to work out when each spot will get sun and shade.
Thomas Cook’s UK managing director Chris Mottershead said the initiative will particularly help “Families that want to secure a number of beds together in a specific spot”.
It says it is the UK’s first package holiday company to provide such a service and follows the trial scheme it introduced last year allowing customers to select their hotel room before the start of their trip.
What other add on’s can companies charge for?
Before you’ve even set foot in the airport there are ways companies can charge you for essentially completing your holiday. These ‘extra’s’ include an additional £5 for allowing your luggage above your head, premium queues for getting through passport control and a number of ways to grab you at the airport. From more expensive hire cars in person than online to sky-high insurance premiums that you are not forced to take, getting on holiday in the first place can be a costly experience.
This isn’t the first time the Thomas Cook have monetised the basics of a holiday. Currently known as the ‘Ryanair’ of the travel world, they also recently launched a Choose Your Room trial, allowing pre-selection of specific rooms for a charge of €30.
However, it turns out that this is an increasingly welcome service, as more than 10,000 visitors pre-booked their room during a trial phase last year.
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.
It certainly raises the issue of what other hidden costs holiday companies might start to offer, as holidays are already subject to a wide array of add on’s. From the all-inclusive tiers (some that include half board/others local drinks/and some premium drinks) to wristbands and key cards that separate those who have paid more for additional services.
Thomas Cook might have cottoned on to a gap in the market when it comes to sunbeds, but in the travel industry, there might not be a lot of gap’s left!