Independent travel agents will benefit from the Thomas Cook/Co-operative merger as more customers look for expert advice, according to the AITO Specialist Travel Agents. “I believe that AITO Specialist Travel Agents have been given a great opportunity here to attract new customers who are seeking choice and expert advice, above all,” AITO Agents’ Chairman Oliver Broad told Travel Daily. “People may not be able to rely any longer on independent advice from their local Co-op holiday shop but will be able to from an AITO Agent.” He raised concern at a high street that is ‘ruled by two major players’ and hoped that consumers would opt for the AITO Agent alternative. “It is hard to stand by and watch the big boys monopolise flight routes and here we need to educate our agents and consumers on the alternatives to ensure our independent suppliers are supported wherever possible,” said Broad. “It is frustrating when you have to sell one of the big player’s holidays but sometimes we simply have no choice. This does concern me for the future and it will be interesting to see what happens.” The merger between Thomas Cook and the Co-operative Group was announced on Friday and will see the Going Places brand disappear. The new joint subsidiary company will be 70% owned by Thomas Cook and 30% held by the Co-operative. Both companies will keep their separate brands although some outlets will swap names. However as the companies’ headquarters and back offices combine, it has been reported that they will be several job losses. “This is really about job creation and protection, but yes of course, by combining the two head offices there will be some job losses,” Co-op Chief Executive Peter Marks told the Press Association.