Thomas Cook is preparing for a major overhaul of its e-commerce operation as it attempts to become the market leader in the lucrative online travel market.
The move reflects the desire of traditional travel agents to counter the growth of internet-only operators in the European online travel market, which is estimated to be worth £25bn a year.
The travel agent, which launched its online operation in 2000, is planning to roll-out dynamic packaging technology which will allow users to build their own holiday. The service will be launched on thomascook.com before the end of the year.
The technology, which will also be used in Thomas Cook's call centre, forms part of a wide-ranging contract with online travel technology specialist OTC to cover the entire booking-to-fulfilment process.
As part of the deal, which was announced last week, OTC will provide Thomas Cook with its customised software for flights, hotels, car hire and insurance as well as a range of back-office systems covering sales, ticketing, call centre and marketing tools.
Katherine Gershon, director of multimedia sales at Thomas Cook, said the new technology would bring a number of benefits.
"We expect to achieve efficiency savings, boost sales, grow our customer base and increase customer retention," she said. "Also, having a single system makes everything cleaner and easier to run."
OTC will provide an interface between Thomas Cook's car hire suppliers Avis and Alamo using internet data standard XML and a link with insurance firm Axa.
l Speculation is mounting that USA Interactive, which owns the world's two largest online travel businesses, Expedia and hotels-.com, is planning bids for either Lastminute.com or ebookers.
Earlier this month, Barry Diller, head of Interactive, said he had £3bn to meet his goal of becoming the largest and most profitable e-commerce company in the world. "International expansion in travel is vital for us," he said.
Both UK online travel players would fit Interactive's bill, analysts believe.