Thomas Cook, the twilight of a global travel star

Tour operator Thomas Cook, founded in 1841 and a pioneer of modern package holidays, collapsed on Monday after failing to reach a rescue deal.

Here is a look back at the 178 year-old global brand:

– Travel pioneer –

Thomas Cook arranged the first known organised trip in Britain in 1841, offering a round trip by train from Leicester to Loughborough for 500 people at negotiated rates. 

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In 1872, Thomas Cook took intrepid travellers on the first escorted round-the-world trip in 200 days.

– Global network –

Both a tour operator and an airline, the group currently generates almost £10 billion in annual turnover, transporting around 20 million customers across the globe each year. 

Destinations include The Maldives, Thailand and China, but it focuses mainly on Southern Europe and the Mediterranean with Mallorca and Antalya (Turkey) its main resorts. 

The group owns 200 hotels, separated into different brands depending on who they cater for, whether it be families, budget travellers, young people or top-of-the-range guests. 

It also owns the Jet Tours travel brand, Neckermann in continental Europe, and around 100 aircraft under its own name and the Condor brand.

– Dismal results –

The operator has experienced difficulties for several years, but the situation has deteriorated in recent months.

The group announced an eye-watering loss of £1.5 billion in the first half of the year due to the fierce competition from online travel and also the tremors caused by Brexit, which it said had led to potential tourists delaying travel plans amid the uncertainty. 

The weak pound, another consequence of Brexit, also reduced the purchasing power of British holidaymakers abroad. 

The setbacks caused its stock price to fall in recent months, plummeting to just a few pence. 

– Crisis reaches a head –

Fosun, the Chinese owner of Club Med, was Thomas Cook’s largest shareholder, owning around 17 percent of its capital. 

The Chinese firm had planned to take over the British group’s tours business as part of a £900 million refinancing package, of which it would have contributed half. 

But creditors later asked for a further £200 million to refinance the tour operator, arguing that it would not be sustainable otherwise. 

Creditors, executives and shareholders were locked in a series of meetings from Friday to try and release pension funds, secure a government bailout or cut the £200 million sum. 

But it was all in vain, with the travel giant declaring bankruptcy early Monday.

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