Thomas Cook has relaunched as an online-only travel company, exactly one year after its collapse. The 178-year-old brand was bought by Chinese firm Fosun Travel Group for £11 million following its demise, which left 150,000 holidaymakers stranded overseas.
Relaunching today, it will sell holidays online and over the phone – but will not have a presence on the high street. It has retained the brand’s logo, and employs just 50 people – a far cry from the 9,000 jobs that were axed last year.
The company is currently only selling holidays to beach resort destinations with no quarantine or FCO restrictions – including Italy, Barbados, and some areas of Greece.
Alan French, Thomas Cook’s new UK Chief Executive, addressed the difficulties of launching a travel company amid 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. Our new business will combine fantastic UK-based customer service with an updated operating model protected by Atol and with the backing of a multibillion-dollar organisation.”
French, who was previously Group Strategy and Technology Director of the company, was one of the 9,000 staff who lost their jobs last September. “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.
“The resilience and affection still felt for the Thomas Cook brand reflects the huge commitment and professionalism of those former colleagues. We are very much in their debt and hope to have their backing as we look to take the brand into a new era.”
Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s Consumer Editor, says that the brand’s troubled past may be hard for holidaymakers to forget: “By the time it failed last year, Thomas Cook was still one of the most famous brands in travel, but it had become a mid-market sun and sand tour operator and had lost much of its reputation for the high quality travel advice of its travel agents.
“The new online incarnation will benefit from the well-known name, and does offer proper Atol financial protection to its customers – and the parent company has a strong record in travel and holidays. But it will be hard for Thomas Cook to regain its historic reputation for reliability, knowledgeable staff and excellent customer service.”