Thomas Cook has resurrected as an online-only travel company, exactly one year after the 178-year-old company went out of business, stranding 150,000 vacationers abroad.
The revival comes as the travel industry faces the worst tourism crisis since the records began. Figures from the World Tourism Organization show that international tourist travel fell 65% in the first half of the year, an unprecedented decline. But Thomas Cook UK chief executive Alan French said the company had a “long-term vision.”
The new ‘Covid-ready’ website will initially sell vacations to resorts and cities in countries on the UK government’s list of travel corridors, including Turkey, Italy and parts of Greece. More destinations will be added when government restrictions are lifted, along with more hotels and other types of accommodation.
“We are now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic,” French said. âWe know the British love to travel but are worried about safety and any changes in government rules on quarantine. We only sell destinations on the travel corridor list and all hotels are flexible. We will not charge guests a fee for modifying their vacation if government rules change. “
The website offers tens of thousands of hotels, as well as flights, transfers and other add-ons, for customers to customize their trips, which will be protected by Atol, the government-run financial protection program and managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The relaunch is backed by Fosun Tourism Group, the Chinese conglomerate that bought the Thomas Cook brand and online assets for Â£ 11million in November. Fosun is also the owner of Club Med.
The Thomas Cook Group, which operated 560 branches in the main streets of the UK and a fleet of airplanes as well as its travel planning business, employed 9,000 people in the UK. The new company employs 50 people, who will work remotely.
The site currently only sells single-destination air travel, but a spokesperson said multi-stop travel and other transportation options such as train and ferry are “under consideration.”
A spokesperson for the new small business said, âWe won’t have these dedicated buses and reps with clipboards around the pool. But we think people want to design their own vacations now.
The new company hopes to sell vacations to up to 50,000 passengers per year.
Rory Boland, editor-in-chief of Which? travel, has warned consumers to be careful about booking vacations, as some vacation providers have breached their legal obligation to reimburse customers for cancellations in recent months. .
âWhile some former Thomas Cook clients might be excited to see her relaunch as an online travel agent, events of the past few months should serve as a reminder that just because a brand is a household name doesn’t mean that you can necessarily trust it. it’s to treat you fairly, âhe said.
âWhile package vacations booked through Thomas Cook would be protected by Atol, many major online travel agents have proven time and time again throughout the pandemic that they are unable to offer the same level of protection or customer service than the best traditional tour operators. , making it difficult to obtain refunds that customers are legally owed for canceled vacations. “
Meanwhile, a group of former Thomas Cook staff are set to launch a separate travel organization company called Sunny Heart Travel, selling resorts, cruises and tours from its base in Peterborough.