Thomas Cook trailblazer of modern package holidays

Top News | 24 Sep 2019

Baptist minister Thomas Cook pioneered the modern package holidays by arranging the first known organized trip in Britain in 1841.

That offer was a round trip by train from Leicester to Loughborough for 500 people at negotiated rates for a temperance (anti-alcohol) meeting.

In four years Cook was diversifying, with railway excursions to Liverpool from Leicester, Nottingham and Derby. In 1872, his company took intrepid travelers on the first escorted round-the-world trip in 200 days.

Both a tour operator and an airline, the Thomas Cook group - before bankruptcy - generated almost 10 billion (HK$97.5 billion) in annual turnover, transporting around 20 million customers across the globe each year. Destinations include The Maldives, Thailand and China, but it focused on Southern Europe and the Mediterranean with Mallorca and Turkey its main resorts.

The company packaged its first continental tour in 1855. Cook took two parties from the eastern English port of Harwich to Antwerp, then to Brussels, Cologne, Heidelberg, Strasbourg and Paris. He offered a complete holiday package - comprising travel, accommodation and food - for the first time. It also offered a foreign exchange service for the first time.

Ten years later Cook opened his first high-street shop in Fleet Street, London, and in 1874 he launched "Cook's Circular Note," a precursor of the travelers check, in New York. For several years Cook worked in partnership with son John Cook, who took over in 1879. When the younger Cook died in 1899, he was succeeded by his three sons. Thomas Cook had passed away in 1892.

The group's other key dates:

? 1919 -Thos Cook & Son, as the company was then known, becomes the first travel agent in Britain to advertise pleasure trips by air.

? 1928 - Frank and Ernest Cook, the two surviving grandsons of Thomas Cook, retire, selling the business to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Europeens.

? 1948 - Becomes state-owned under the British Transport Holding Co.

? 1972 - Privatized and bought by a consortium of Britain's Midland Bank, Trust House Forte and the Automobile Association.

? 1990 - Becomes the world's leading foreign exchange retailer when it acquires the retail foreign exchange operations of Deak International.

? 2001 - It is acquired by the German travel company Condor & Neckermann, which changes its name to Thomas Cook AG.

? 2007 - It merges with MyTravel Group to form Thomas Cook Group.

? 2011 - Thomas Cook merges its British retail operations with those of the Co-operative Group and the Midlands Co-operative Society, creating the United Kingdom's largest chain of travel agents.

? 2015 - Thomas Cook Group announces a new strategic partnership with Chinese investment group Fosun International Limited.


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