Interview: Giles Hawke, CEO of Cosmos

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We sit down with Giles Hawke, CEO of Cosmos, to talk about what the future holds for the company following its recent huge rebrand


Cosmos recently announced a huge rebrand, dropping ‘Tours & Cruises’ from its name and unveiling a new logo, strapline and website.

After reaching an agreement with Monarch Group to regain the rights to the name, the company relaunched under cosmos.co.uk, with the strapline ‘Adventures Made Easy’.Also new is an online portal for agents – cosmos.co.uk/agents – that will be rolled out over a two-month period with dedicated log in details provided.

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The company has also announced a price promise, while clients can also cancel or change holidays before the balance is due and rebook without losing the deposit or facing a charge The company will now be split into three parts – tours, beach and cruise.

We sat down with Giles Hawke, the former executive director of MSC Cruises, who took over as CEO at Cosmos Tours and Cruises and Avalon Waterways UK in April last year, to discuss the big changes.

Cruise Adviser: Talk us through the changes at Cosmos

Giles Hawke: It’s a relaunch even more than it is a redesign. It’s restating what Cosmos is and moving away from being Cosmos Tours & Cruises to Cosmos. There was some confusion within the trade because of Cosmos Holidays, which was with Monarch Group. Now, it’s now just one brand: Cosmos. From the research we did, we realised it’s a brand that’s loved and recognised,
but over the years got a bit lost in people’s minds, a bit, ‘Who are Cosmos?’ By coming up with a new look, a new strapline, we’re able to have a clearer message for travel agents and for their customers.

We grew up as a touring company and that will remain a core part of our offering, but we now have mid and long-haul beach holidays, such as Goa, Sri Lanka, and we also have cruise holidays.

Why ‘Adventures Made Easy?’

GH: What customers love about us, is they can go to places – and see and do things – that they may not go on their own. They like the adventure aspect, but also want some hand-holding along the way. For example, this year, India is popular, but it’s not necessarily something people want to organise own their own;  we want to make adventure simple and straightforward. It’s travelling without turning up in a strange city in a strange place and thinking, ‘Oh god, now I’ve got to organise the next bit’. It’s about offering a door-to-door service, which we’re extending to 2018, with VIP home chauffeur pick-ups. If you’re 50 miles from the airport or, say, St Pancras, we’ll pick customers up and take them.

How is important is the trade to Cosmos?

GH: Our view is that they’re essential. We’ve never had travel agent online booking before and one of the key things we wanted to do with our new website was to give travel agents those tools. From my past experience in the cruise industry, I know that’s absolutely essential to a lot of travel agents. It’s cheaper – they’re not making phone calls, although we do have a freephone number – and they’re able to control the whole booking process – they’re not reliant on saying, “Hold on, I’ll take your details and phone you back.” It allows the travel agent to demonstrate their expertise – customers can’t think,
“I could have done that.” We’ve also had a number of fam trips already – Thailand, China, Canada, New York and New England – and we’ve got more coming up in the year. We’ve made a big investment – there’s more than ever before.

How important is pre and post when it comes to cruise?

GH: We create packages and we see a number of agents selling them. We’re one of the key partners for A-Rosa in the UK: we have all of their product on sale and packaged up and a lot of agents take that, rather than having to create their own package and Atol take the tour-operating risks. But we also see a lot of agents taking our tours, particularly the shorter ones, and bolting them onto to a cruise.
We often see an agent take a seven-night Italy tour bolted on to a cruise, with say Norwegian Cruise Line or MSC Cruises, or whoever it might be. It’s a great way for new-to-cruise customers to experience a cruise in a risk-free manner, where they don’t think, “Oh, this is my whole holiday – and I’ve no idea what a cruise ship is going to be like.”

In your capacity as CEO of Avalon  Waterways you told the Clia River Conference that river was 10 years behind ocean cruise – what was the reaction from other river lines? 

GH: A number of people agreed with the principle – not that the onboard product is behind ocean – but that
the approach to marketing and
the approach to supporting travel agents, and even just the awareness of the offering, ocean cruise has, over the years, probably done a better job of creating more awareness and giving agents better tools. There were those who disagreed with that assertion though.

River is still seen as a holiday for just the elderly – do we still have a lot of work to do there? 

CA: We still have a job to do show agents and customers why you would go on a river cruise and why it is for
a whole range of people. With Avalon Waterways we don’t focus on families – although children over eight are welcome – but there are river lines, such as A-Rosa, where children go free, who have a real focus. There’s still work to do, but we’re heading in the right direction. Over the next year or two we have to ask: are we seeing the average age coming down? Things such as having bikes on board make a big difference – things like Avalon Active Discovery, where some of activities includes kayaking, a running tour of Vienna and bike tours. I think adding those sort of on-shore options into mix, along with updating the type of imagery and the type of marketing we use, will start to attract people who think, “Oh, I didn’t realise you could do that!”

Anthony Pearce

Anthony Pearce is the co-publisher of CRUISE ADVISER. He can be contacted on anthony@cruise-adviser.com 

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