My Column

Big questions looming over hols firm fail

  • Date: Monday 30th September 2019
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Thomas Cook dominated the headlines throughout last week and for all the wrong reasons.

I was stunned to see the world’s oldest travel agent going bust, leaving hundreds of thousands holidaymakers stranded and thousands of employees jobless.

With Thomas Cook holidays and flights cancelled, many were left scrambling to try and make their way home from abroad and those who have booked and paid for trips in the future trying to seek compensation or refunds. 

The situation truly is horrific, with the company going bust after the UK Government refused to bail it out with public money, reported in the region of £150million - £250million, in order for the company to secure £900million of further funding that would see it stay afloat.

With an estimated 160,000 British Thomas Cook holidaymakers stranded abroad at my time of writing this, the Department for Transport has been involved in the largest repatriation effort since the Second World War, trying to get everyone home from around the globe.

In times like these, I really do feel for the staff who are now left without a job. The 9,000 UK employees, some who were on board flights and in the air when the news broke, have tried their best to help stranded holiday makers.

All through last week, there were numerous stories of Thomas Cook staff continuing to work on, despite no prospect of being paid – advising guests in hotels around the globe, securing new flights and being on hand to support those worried about getting home.

Stories like this show that sometimes work can be more than a ‘just a job’ for many - it show sjust how much they care.

Customer services is so important for any business - how your staff interact with the public can make or break your reputation. So although it is too late for Thomas Cook, those staff members who have gone above and beyond for paying customers should be commended and will make first class workers when they find new employment.

It was also fantastic to see some real acts of kindness from Thomas Cook passengers. I couldn’t help but smile when I heard of Scottish passenger, Ashleigh MacLennan, organising a whip round for the crew of the final flight when they discovered mid-air they had lost their jobs.

Ashleigh, from Glasgow, sent two pillow cases through the plane to collect donations and presented them to the crew. A small gesture that I’m sure meant the world to the flight attendants.

Of course while there are good people out there, there are also bad ones, and it was unsettling to see Police Scotland issuing a warning to the public to be on their guard against scammers.

Thomas Cook customers are being targeted by cold callers asking for their bank details so that they can organise their “holiday refunds” - however it’s a ruse.

It is shocking that these fake callers are targeting people who have already been left out of pocket and I hope they are caught quickly.

I have to say, some of Thomas Cook’s competitors haven’t exactly acted much better than the scammers, with some tour operators hiking up prices, leading to allegations they’re taking advantage of holidaymakers left in the lurch.

Periods of high demand have always driven up airline prices but it’s a shame to see companies increasing their profit margins on the back of this.

Also under scrutiny are Thomas Cook’s executives – apparently those at the top have enjoyed a combined £20m in salaries and bonuses since 2014, as the business was failing.

With the company’s demise being felt around the globe, questions need to be asked and I’m sure its executives will come under intense scrutiny.

However, in the meantime I do hope that those former Thomas Cook staff members are quick to find alternative employment and all affected customers are provided with refunds.

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The film and television industry in Scotland is booming.

From Scottish born actors relishing leading roles and winning awards to Hollywood royalty using our capital as a film set, the spotlight is firmly on us.

If you’ve been in Edinburgh recently you may have noticed some road closures as they filmed Fast and Furious 9. And now a new Netflix movie, Eurovision, starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams is set to record scenes across four locations in the capital.

The wealth of creative talent in Scotland’s film, television and games industry is set to be recognised at the upcoming Scottish Baftas in Glasgow.

The hotly anticipated nominations were announced last week, and the ceremony will be screened live on BBC Scotland – the first television broadcast of the awards in more than ten years.  I believe this is testament to the rise in popularity and success of the industry in Scotland.

They’re tipped to be the biggest yet with entries up 50 per cent on last year, which is likely linked to the launch of the new digital channel BBC Scotland.

It has provided a platform for up-and-coming Scottish talent both on and off screen.

However the success of the channel is still under massive scrutiny. It was widely reported that some shows received zero viewers at some point doing its live broadcast which is a real shame.

Despite this I hope it will be given the time it needs to develop and showcase more home grown talent rather than being axed too soon.

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The Brexit saga and general car crash politics is starting to fall on deaf ears as many Brits become disheartened and disengaged.

But as it rumbles on, fears continue to mount about the impact on Scottish businesses.

A recent survey revealed business activity in Scotland has declined by almost 10 per cent in the past three months and 30 per cent of companies monitored have scaled back on investment with the Brexit deadline looming.

The report published by Scottish Business Monitor is referring to rising costs for businesses, falling investment and continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

I hope this slight dip is just temporary and Scottish businesses remain resilient, but it’s simply too early to tell.

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Being in the doghouse isn’t usually a good thing but Fridaay was an exception.

I’m a huge supporter of the Edinburgh Dog and Cat home and took part in an innovative fundraiser.

I was LITERALLY in the doghouse as I spent the entire day (canine to five…) working from a kennel!

Only armed with my laptop and phone, I was tasked with reaching out to my network of contacts to raise as much money as possible.

I went head to head with other In the Doghouse participants and I’m so proud to say I was crowned TOP DOG after raising £8,345. Collectively we all raise more than £20k.

A huge thank you to everyone to dug (!!!) deep and contributed.

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