Thomas Cook Resurrected as Online-Only Travel Agent
Exactly one year after it ceased trading, Thomas Cook is being revived as an online-only travel agent.
The travel industry is currently experiencing the worst tourism crisis since records began, with World Tourism Organisation data showing a 65% drop in international tourist trips in the first half of 2020.
Despite the unprecedented drop in travel, Alan French, the company’s UK chief executive, said that Thomas Cook was taking the ‘long view’.
The new website will launch by selling holidays in countries on the government’s travel corridor list, with further destinations being added as restrictions are eased.
“We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic,” said French.
“We know Brits are keen to travel but feel nervous about safety and any changes to government rules on quarantine. We are only selling destinations on the travel corridor list and all the hotels are flexible. We won’t charge customers a fee to change their holidays if government rules change.”
Customers can tailor their trips with tens of thousands of options for flights and hotels which are all covered by Atol - the protection scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Chinese conglomerate, Fosun Tourism Group, bought the Thomas Cook brand in November for £11m. The outfit also owns Club Med.
Thomas Cook Group used to employ 9000 people in the UK, with 560 high street locations and a fleet of aircraft, but the new company employs just 50 people working remotely.
“We won’t have those dedicated buses and reps with clipboards round the pool. But we think people want to design their own holidays now,” said a spokesperson for the new company.
Meanwhile, Which? travel editor Rory Boland has warned consumers to exercise caution when booking trips abroad as Atol protection has been less robust in recent times.
“While some previous Thomas Cook customers may be pleased to see it relaunching as an online travel agent, the events of the past few months should act as a reminder that just because a brand is a household name it does not mean you can necessarily rely on it to treat you fairly,” said Boland.
“While package holidays booked through Thomas Cook would be Atol protected, many of the big online travel agents have proven time and time again through the pandemic they aren’t able to offer the same level of protection or customer service as better, traditional tour operators, making it difficult to secure refunds that customers are legally owed for cancelled holidays.”