Chinese-owned Thomas Cook resurrects as an online travel agent

Noble Horvath

Troubled travel agent Thomas Cook resurrected its business as an online-only travel firm on Wednesday, a year after the company ceased trading amid debt woes. The world’s oldest travel firm, which was bought by China’s Fosun Group for £11 million (Dh52.1m) two months after its collapse in September last year, […]

Troubled travel agent Thomas Cook resurrected its business as an online-only travel firm on Wednesday, a year after the company ceased trading amid debt woes.

The world’s oldest travel firm, which was bought by China’s Fosun Group for £11 million (Dh52.1m) two months after its collapse in September last year, will now focus on selling beach and city breaks in countries on the UK government’s travel corridor list. These include destinations such as Turkey, Italy and some islands in Greece to give travellers “more certainty”.

“We have reinvented one of the most recognisable names in British travel,” said Alan French, Thomas Cook’s UK chief executive said in a statement.

“We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic. 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 also won’t charge customers a fee to change their holidays if government rules change.”

Thomas Cook’s dominance in the travel industry dramatically ended last year when its heavy debts, accumulated from a series of bad deals, hampered its ability to keep pace with more nimble online rivals. At the time the company employed 9,000 people and operated 560 high street branches in the UK as well as an airline and tour operation business. More than 150,000 travellers were left stranded overseas following the company’s collapse.

The revamped company employs just 50 people and said its new offering “puts consumers in control of their own holiday” as they can customise their trip according to their budget and needs. Bookings can be made online or by phone as the new company has no stores.

To help regain consumer trust, Mr French, said it will “ring-fence” payments, with the company only receiving the money once customers return from their trip.

Bookings will also be protected by Atol, the government-run protection scheme offered by the Civil Aviation Authority.

While Fosun acquired Thomas Cook’s trademarks, domain names, software applications, licences and related hotel brands, British company Hays Travel agreed to buy all 555 UK stores from the bankrupt travel operator. It also offered employment to several hundred staff. Thomas Cook’s demise led to 22,000 job losses worldwide.

Mr French added: “What happened last year was a tragedy at a personal level for many thousands of my former colleagues, our business partners and of course our loyal customers.”

Updated: September 16, 2020 05:10 PM

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