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Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook



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Thomas Cook, the only child of John Cook, a labourer, was born at 9 Quick Close, Melbourne, South Derbyshire, on 22nd November, 1808. His father died in 1812, and his mother remarried James Smithard. This did not improve the family's financial circumstances and Thomas was forced to leave school at the age of ten and found work as a gardener's boy on Lord Melbourne's estate.

Cook attended the local Methodist Sunday School. However, when he reached the age of 13, his mother persuaded him to become a Baptist. Soon afterwards he started as an apprentice as a wood-turner and cabinet-maker with his uncle, John Pegg, who was also a strong Baptist.

During this period Cook was described as "an earnest, active, devoted, young Christian". He soon became a teacher at the Sunday School and eventually was appointed as its superintendent. At seventeen Thomas joined the local Temperance Society and over the next few years spent his spare-time campaigning against the consumption of alcohol.

In 1827 Cook abandoned his apprenticeship to become an itinerant village missionary, on a salary of £36 a year. His biographer, Piers Brendon, points out: "His job was to spread the Word by preaching, distributing tracts, and setting up Sunday schools throughout the south midland counties. Thus began a career in travel.... Cook, a young man with a commanding presence and black penetrating eyes in which some discerned a gleam of fanaticism... All his life he remained a strict and ardent Baptist, although he was tolerant of other protestant sects. Religion gave him a strong desire to help the downtrodden and his political inclinations were liberal."

Cook married Marianne Mason (1807–1884) on the 2nd March, 1833, and settled in Market Harborough. The Baptist church could no longer afford to pay him as a preacher and so set up in trade as a wood-turner. He also became an active member of the local Temperance Society. Cook made speeches and published pamphlets pointing out the dangers of alcohol consumption. He also arranged large group picnics where participants were, according to the Temperance Messenger, sustained with "biscuits, buns and ginger beer". In 1840 Cook decided to make a career out of his temperance beliefs and founded the Children's Temperance Magazine.

In 1841 Cook had the idea of arranging an eleven-mile rail excursion from Leicester to a Temperance Society meeting in Loughborough on the newly extended Midland Railway. Cook charged his customers one shilling and this included the cost of the rail ticket and the food on the journey. The venture was a great success and Cook decided to start his own business running rail excursions. Cook later recalled that this was "the starting point of a career of labour and pleasure which has expanded into … a mission of goodwill and benevolence on a grand scale".

Cook set up as a bookseller and printer in Leicester. He specialized in temperance literature but also produced books aimed at a local market such as the Leicester Almanack (1842) and Guide to Leicester (1843). He also opened up temperance hotels in Derby and Leicester and continued to organize excursions. The author of Thomas Cook: 150 Years of Popular Tourism (1991) has pointed out: "In 1845, having won a reputation as an entrepreneur who could obtain cheap rates from the railway companies for large parties, he undertook his first profit-making excursion - to Liverpool, Caernarfon, and Mount Snowdon. Cook wrote a handbook which resembled in essential respects the modern tour operator's brochure."

In 1846 Cook took 500 people from Leicester on a tour of Scotland that involved visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh. One of his greatest achievements was to arrange for over 165,000 people to attend the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. With the profits from his travel business Cook was able to "abandon the printing trade, give considerable sums to poor relief, promote the erection of a Temperance Hall in Leicester, and finance the rebuilding of his Commercial and Family Temperance Hotel". These were very popular and with the profits from his travel business Cook was able to "abandon the printing trade, give considerable sums to poor relief, promote the erection of a Temperance Hall in Leicester, and finance the rebuilding of his Commercial and Family Temperance Hotel".

Cook's travel business was badly damaged in 1862 when the Scottish railway companies refused to issue any more group tickets for Cook's popular tours north of the border. Cook now decided to take advantage of new rail links for the conveyance of large numbers of tourists to the continent. In his first year he arranged for 2000 visitors to travel France and 500 to Switzerland. In 1864 Cook began taking tourists to Italy.

Cook's tours of Europe, resulted in him being described as the "Napoleon of Excursions". However, he had his critics. Charles Lever, writing in Blackwood's Magazine, commented that Cook was guilty of swamping Europe with "everything that is low-bred, vulgar and ridiculous". Others complained about the bad taste of taking tourists to the battlefields of the American Civil War.

Cook moved his business to London. His son John managed the London office of the company that was now known as Thomas Cook & Son. John helped to expand the company by opening offices in Manchester, Brussels, and Cologne. In 1869 the company arranged tours of Egypt and the Holy Land, something he described as "the greatest event of my tourist life".

Thomas Cook had a difficult relationship with his son and only made him a partner in 1871. The author of Thomas Cook: 150 Years of Popular Tourism (1991) has suggested: "His reluctance was probably due to disputes between the two men, mainly over financial matters. Unlike Thomas, John believed that business should be kept separate from religion and philanthropy. He also upset his father by being more adventurous in investing money. He opened a hotel at Luxor and refurbished the Nile steamers of the khedive, from whom he obtained the passenger agency, thus helping to make Egypt a safer and more attractive destination."

By 1872 Thomas Cook & Son was able to offer a 212 day Round the World Tour for 200 guineas. The journey included a steamship across the Atlantic, a stage coach from the east to the west coast of America, a paddle steamer to Japan, and an overland journey across China and India.

Thomas continued to disagree with his son about the way the company should be run. After a serious dispute in 1878, Thomas decided to retire to Thorncroft, the large house which he had built on the outskirts of Leicester, and allow John Cook to run the business on his own.

Piers Brendon has argued: "Cook led a lonely life after the deaths of his unmarried daughter Annie (who drowned in her bath, apparently overcome by fumes from a new gas heater) in 1880 and his wife four years later. He continued to travel, however, making his final pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1888. Much of his time and money were spent, as they had been throughout his career, in work for the Baptist church, the temperance movement, and other charities. He did not attend the firm's silver jubilee celebrations in 1891; whether this was because of blindness and physical incapacity or because John did not want him there is not clear."

Thomas Cook died at Knighton, Leicester, on 18th July 1892.


Thomas Cook History: The Tale of the Father of Modern Tourism

Do you know who Thomas Cook was and what contribution he made to the history of travel? Perhaps you have heard the name, seen it on the travel agencies that still carry his name, or maybe you’ve even taken a Thomas Cook tour. But my guess is that, like me, you don’t know too much about the man or how he fits into the history of travel.

Thomas Cook was a passionate man who was born into a world where most working class people worked long 6-day weeks and never traveled more than 20 miles from their home towns. Thomas would begin work at age 10, laboring in a vegetable garden for 1 penny per day but with a lot of determination and hard work, this working class man would eventually build one of the largest travel companies in the world.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Cook and his role in history and will give you a good overview of Thomas the man, Thomas the travel pioneer, and a glimpse of what it was like to travel in the Victorian age.


Former Thomas Cook bosses under fire for excessive pay

While thousands of holidaymakers were waiting in overseas airports for the government’s emergency airlift to get them home and Thomas Cook staff were losing their jobs, former bosses of the stricken travel firm came under fire for receiving payouts worth more than £35m in the last 12 years.

Manny Fontenla-Novoa, who led the acquisition spree that saddled the company with more than £1bn of debt, was handed more than £17m in just over four years as boss of Thomas Cook, boosted by bonuses awarded for slashing 2,800 jobs following the merger with MyTravel. He quit in 2011 as the tour operator came close to collapse.

His successor was Harriet Green, who was paid £4.7m for less than three years plus a share bonus worth a further £5.6m. She handed a third of that award to charities after the deaths of two children from carbon monoxide poisoning in Thomas Cook accommodation in Corfu.

The history of Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook owes its name to a humble and deeply religious 32-year-old cabinet-maker who, one June morning in 1841, hiked the 15 miles from his home in Market Harborough to Leicester, to attend a temperance meeting.

The former Baptist preacher believed that the ills of Victorian society stemmed largely from alcohol and, presumably fatigued from his walk, realised he could deploy the power of Britain’s flourishing rail network to help spread the word.

Addressing the temperance meeting, he suggested that a train be hired to carry the movement’s supporters to the next meeting in Loughborough.

Thus, on 5 July 1841, some 500 passengers travelled by a special train for the 24-mile round trip, paying a shilling apiece.

Over the next few years, Cook laid on ever more trains, introducing thousands of Britons to train travel for the first time. The first such outing to be run for commercial purposes was a trip to Liverpool in 1845.

Over the next decade or so, the business expanded to offer overseas trips, to France, Switzerland, Italy and beyond, to the US, Egypt and India.

His more business-minded son John expanded the tour operator and its reach was such that the government enlisted its expertise in an effort, ultimately in vain, to relieve General Gordon at the siege of Khartoum in 1885.

John’s three sons inherited the business, which incorporated as Thos Cook & Son Ltd in 1924 and benefited from the increasing ease of international travel.

Its first flirtation with collapse came during the second world war, when the government requisitioned some of its assets and it was sold to Britain’s railway companies, effectively a nationalisation.

But it boomed in the postwar years as growing prosperity fuelled the appetite for holidays and it returned to private ownership in 1972.

Since then, it has changed hands and changed shape via a series of mergers and takeovers. It nearly collapsed in 2011 but averted its demise with a bailout deal funded by banks.

Now, after 178 years of operation, it has ceased trading.

Green also claimed £80,000-a-year to cover her hotel bills at the five-star Brown’s hotel in London, where she lived during the week.

Peter Fankhauser, who was in charge when the company collapsed, was handed £8.3m, including £4.3m in bonuses.

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell called on Thomas Cook bosses to “examine their consciences”, while the party’s shadow minister of consumer affairs, Gill Furniss, called on the bosses to hand back their bonuses.

Meanwhile, a group of international hedge funds who bet against Thomas Cook have made big profits from its collapse.

Nearly 11% of the travel company’s shares were ‘shorted’ ahead of its collapse. Short-sellers try to profit from firms they believe are in trouble. They borrow shares in a company, for a fee, and then sell them in the hope of buying them back at a lower price – and pocket the profit. Short sellers have cashed in on the rapid decline of Thomas Cook’s share price, which plunged 85% in the six months before Sunday’s collapse.

Two hedge funds – London-based TT International and Whitebox Advisers, from Minneapolis – made up the bulk of the shorts, together holding around 7%, according to ShortTracker data.

Other hedge funds are also set for a windfall from investments in credit default swaps, which are form of insurance that pays out when a company defaults on its debts.

Those investments would have been worthless if Thomas Cook had managed to clinch a deal this weekend. But as a result of the collapse CDS payouts are now expected to reach $250m (£201m), according to reports by Bloomberg.


Brits abroad

By 1855, after having pioneered trips around the British Isles and to London's Great Exhibition, Thomas Cook set his sights across the Channel to Paris where the International Exhibition was being held.

His commercial tour there, linked to other European destinations, was a huge success.

More European trips followed, and before long Thomas Cook was taking travellers to America, Asia and the Middle East.

The company flourished, fuelled by the growing middle classes and their desire to travel.

Thomas' son, John Mason Cook, eventually took over running the company from his father, who died in 1892.

It stayed in family hands and, in the first quarter of the 20th Century, Thomas Cook's grandsons added winter sports, motor car tours and commercial air travel to its offerings.


The history of Thomas Cook, from tours for teetotallers to boozy packages in Spain

An advert for Thomas Cook's first package train journey Credit: Thomas Cook

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T homas Cook. The two words have become synonymous with the modern concept of package travel, but they come with plenty of heritage. The company can trace its origins back 178 years, when the very first tour was organised by a Leicestershire printer who could not have envisaged that his simple scheme would become a colossal company.

Born in the Derbyshire market town of Melbourne in 1808, Thomas Cook was a man of religious conviction who, in 1841, began dabbling in transport plans for his fellow followers of the temperance (abstinence from alcohol) movement. That first jaunt was a rail hop from Leicester to Loughborough – but operations quickly expanded beyond local trains. A tour to Liverpool, just four years on, was booked by 1,200 people. It was so popular that Cook had to repeat it, for 800 further customers, a fortnight later.

The brand has survived two world wars, the reigns of six British monarchs, the rise and fall of the Soviet bloc and numerous changes to how we live. Not least the invention of flight.

“The company has witnessed a good deal,” says Paul Smith, the company’s archivist, picking up a brochure which marks one of the moments when British tourists became airborne. “Thomas Cook was the first travel agent to market pleasure flights,” he adds. “We placed an advert in The Times in Easter 1919. And we produced this.” It is, in truth, an unremarkable testament to so seismic a time – a pamphlet in drab olive-brown, a photograph of a converted First World War Handley Page bomber as a sole cover photograph. But the dream it is selling is there in the few metres of space between the plane’s wheels and the ground, a new era dawned.

There are plenty of other such echoes of a changing planet in Paul’s boxes and files. A 1928 brochure sings of the good days just before the Wall Street Crash, touting a tie-in between Thomas Cook and Cunard which started and ended in New York. It journeyed through the Caribbean and down the flank of South America to Buenos Aires, headed across the Atlantic to Cape Town, turned north along the torso of Africa in search of Cairo – then returned to the Big Apple via Naples, Monte Carlo and Madeira. The price for this princely expedition is listed as US$5,000 – around £50,000 today, Paul estimates.

Other artefacts retreat into the 19th century. The brochure that the firm produced in 1868 – the second time such literature was published after an initial experiment in 1865 proved successful – is a thing of joy, more geography textbook than promotional spiel. It is filled with maps which chart available travel routes, red lines spider-webbing across Europe to Rouen and Paris, Bologna and Florence. A reproduction of a Thomas Cook “circular note” – an in-house version of the traveller’s cheque – recalls a move into currency transactions in 1874. A “Nile Season: 1896-97” brochure salutes the rise of river cruising.

Further items shed breezy light onto the 20th century – a Fifties belle adorning a pamphlet for the company’s Prestatyn holiday camp that shouts: “This Is It! Your 1954 Holiday” a 1963 brochure, disguised as a women’s magazine called “Holidaymaking”, firmly aimed at female decision-makers in evolving households big hair and palm trees for gaudy 1985, youthful romance on a Greek island for 1996. Others deal in shadows – instructions on how to use the “Enemy Mail Service” that Thomas Cook helped to run in the Second World War, deploying company connections to deliver letters to people in occupied lands.

The company has, of course, also changed after nearly two centuries. The Cook family sold it in 1928, and it has seen subsequent periods of national as well as private ownership. “But we’ve been trading under the same name throughout,” Paul adds. “Those two words ‘Thomas Cook’ have been there since Day One.” He of all people would know.

A brief history of Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook started organising leisure trips in the summer of 1841 when its founder, who gave his name to the company, organised a successful one-day rail excursion at a shilling a head from Leicester to Loughborough. During the next three summers Mr Cook arranged a succession of trips, taking passengers to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham. Four years later, he organised his first trip abroad, taking a group from Leicester to Calais. This was followed in the 1860s by trips to Switzerland, Italy, Egypt and America.

In partnership with his son, John Mason Cook, he opened an office in Fleet Street in 1865. In accordance with his beliefs, Mr Cook senior and his wife also ran a small temperance hotel above the office. The firm’s growing importance was demonstrated in 1884, when it transported a relief force to rescue General Gordon, from Khartoum, in Sudan.

In 1869, he hired two steamers and conducted his first party up the Nile. The climax of his career, however, came in September 1872 when, at the age of 63, he departed from Leicester on a tour of the world that would keep him away from home for almost eight months. It had long been his ambition to travel “to Egypt via China”, but such a trip only became practicable at the end of 1869 following the opening of the Suez Canal and the completion of a rail network linking the east and west coasts of America.

The company was incorporated as Thos Cook & Son Ltd in 1924, and in 1926 the headquarters moved from Ludgate Circus to Berkeley Street, Mayfair, a once aristocratic area which was now the centre of London society. Then, in 1928, Thomas Cook’s surviving grandsons, Frank and Ernest, unexpectedly sold the business to the Belgian Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Européens, operators of most of Europe’s luxury sleeping cars, including the Orient Express.

Thomas Cook was nationalised shortly after the Second World War when it became part of the state-owned British Railways. It benefited from a holiday boom after the conflict, which saw one million Britons travelling abroad by 1950.

In 1965, Thomas Cook's profits exceeded £1m for the first time, but it was facing stiff competition from younger rivals.

It was privatised in the 1970s with Midland Bank becoming its sole owner in 1977. Thomas Cook managed to survive the recession of the 1970s – a recession that witnessed the collapse of several travel firms – and enhanced its reputation for providing excellent service by launching a Money Back Guarantee scheme in 1974. It was sold by Midland in 1992 to a German bank and charter airline.

C&N Touristic AG, one of Germany’s largest travel groups, became the sole owner of Thomas Cook in 2001 and a new chapter in the company’s history began. Within a matter of months, C&N Touristic AG had changed its name to Thomas Cook AG and launched a new logo and brand identity. In the UK, Thomas Cook introduced its new three-tier mass-market brand strategy – Thomas Cook, JMC and Sunset – and the newly-branded Thomas Cook Airlines was launched in March 2003.

Thomas Cook, one of the world’s biggest leisure travel groups, with sales of £7.8 billion, 19 million annual customers and 22,000 employees, ceased trading in September 2019.


The Collapse of Thomas Cook: What Happened and Why

In the early hours of Monday, September 23, the UK company that revolutionised the package holiday filed for compulsory liquidation. Following the failure of last-ditch rescue negotiations, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that Thomas Cook had “ceased trading with immediate effect”. The tour operator had collapsed after a mammoth 178 years in business. In the words of Thomas Cook Group’s chief executive officer, Peter Fankhauser, the demise of the company was a “matter of profound regret”.

Founded back in 1841 by businessman and Baptist preacher Thomas Cook, the company is widely considered to be the world’s oldest travel firm. It began life by organising railway excursions and expanded steadily to develop a broader range of travel-related businesses. The most recent financial year even saw the firm recording revenues of £9.6 billion, mainly on the back of its hotel, resort and airline businesses, which serviced nearly 20 million travellers across 16 countries. It also employed more than 21,000 people, 9,000 of whom were located in the United Kingdom. In an era when more people than ever are able to travel abroad, it seems scarcely conceivable that one of the industry’s longest-running stalwarts could end up closing down.

Failure to adapt and stay competitive with a new generation of more flexible travel companies, travel-related online services and low-cost airlines, such as easyJet and Jet2, meant that it became gradually tougher for Thomas Cook to win business throughout the decade. To compound matters, potential customers were becoming increasingly accustomed to devising their own holidays rather than using travel agents. The environment in which Thomas Cook operated “radically changed with the advent of budget air travel, online travel services and easy access to private accommodation through online platforms like Airbnb,” noted Professor John Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The situation only worsened in 2016 when political unrest in Turkey eventually led to an attempted presidential coup, meaning that a country that represented one of Thomas Cook’s top customer destinations experienced a pronounced downturn in tourist numbers. Fast forward two years, and 2018’s heatwave only amplified the company’s woes, as more European holidaymakers than normal opted to stay at home. And with Brexit adding further problems to the mix, including a drastic weakening of the pound hitting UK customers’ purchasing power abroad and the climate of uncertainty causing a drop in summer-holiday bookings, Thomas Cook ended up being on the receiving end of drastically tougher headwinds that ultimately could not be overcome.

But it was insurmountable debt that sealed Thomas Cook’s fate in the end. The company failed to clear a debt burden of £1.1 billion that had almost destroyed it back in 2011. Several ill-advised deals, especially its 2007 merger with MyTravel Group—a company that had achieved a profit only once in the previous six years—saddled the group with excessive debt. And despite raising £425 billion from shareholders in 2013, this ultimately proved insufficient in pulling the company out of the red, with vast sums of money being paid out just to service outstanding debt. Indeed, £1.2 billion was paid in interest alone from 2011 onwards. And by the end, it had racked up debts of £1.7 billion, meaning that it needed to sell three million holidays a year just to cover its interest payments. Reports of company mismanagement at the top, as well as a ceasing of dividend payments—and a decidedly odd timing of their resumption—raised further red flags of Thomas Cook’s deteriorating health.

By August 2019, a £900-million funding package was secured as part of a rescue deal led by Thomas Cook’s main shareholder, the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, the parent company of which owns the all-inclusive family holiday company Club Med. The original terms of the plan would see Fosun inject half of this amount into the business and, in return, receive at least 75 percent of Thomas Cook’s tour-operator and 25 percent of its airline businesses. The remaining £450 million would be provided by Thomas Cook’s creditor banks and bondholders, converting the existing debt into a 75-percent stake in the airline and up to 25 percent in the tour-operator unit. Fosun also said that it would “continue to increase investment and cooperation in the UK market”.

But an eleventh-hour request from the creditor banks to obtain a further $200 million in contingency funding to sustain them during the quieter winter months precipitated the collapse of the deal—and with it, Thomas Cook itself. Although company bosses met with creditors on September 21 to try and negotiate a last-minute turnaround deal, they were unsuccessful. As acknowledged by aviation analyst John Strickland, the efforts to rescue Thomas Cook were “too little too late”.

The impact of the collapse since then has been sizeable. The following two weeks saw the CAA complete the country’s biggest peacetime repatriation, returning 140,000 UK-based Thomas Cook customers who were still abroad when the collapse occurred. It has also begun working on refunding those holidaymakers covered by ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s License)-protected insurance for the cost of accommodation and return flights, although only around two-thirds of outstanding refunds had been processed by the deadline.

As far as the impact on the tourism sector is concerned, moreover, shockwaves should be felt across much of Europe. On the Beach, the online travel agent that was booking around 15 percent of its customers onto Thomas Cook flights, recently announced that its profits for the year to September nosedived by 26 percent to £19.4 million. The company’s chief financial officer, Paul Meehan, has since noted that the collapse has shrunk the number of airline seats available in the market, and as such, has pushed ticket prices higher. The tourism sectors in Thomas Cook’s biggest markets, such as Greece, Spain, Turkey and the Canary Islands, are also expected to feel noticeable pain in the long run, especially as numerous hotels in such countries had exclusive arrangements with the travel company. And aircraft-leasing companies have also had to reclaim their planes. “This is an earthquake on a scale of seven, now we are waiting for the tsunami,” was the sobering assessment by Michalis Vlatakis, president of the Association of Travel Agents of Crete, soon after the collapse.

But while Thomas Cook itself may be no more, its name is not about to be forgotten any time soon. Fosun International has spent $14.4 million to buy the brand, in addition to the hotel brands Casa Cook and Cook’s Club. According to Fosun’s chairman, Qian Jiannong, the group “will focus on business expansion, using the newly acquired Thomas Cook brands to create synergies with the existing businesses of the group”. Meanwhile, Thomas Cook India, which was under independent ownership separate from the group, will acquire the Thomas Cook name for its Indian, Sri Lankan and Mauritian markets. The purchase will cost $2 million, and according to the company, will prevent “possible new entrants into these markets, using the brand name”.

Existing competitors in the space should receive a boost in business and market share following Thomas Cook’s demise. Major Anglo-German rival TUI Group, for instance, the shares of which surged more than 10 percent on the day of the collapse, is touted to be among the companies that will most directly benefit. That said, TUI has also faced challenging operating conditions of its own, having issued several profit warnings throughout 2019. But with much smaller debts, the company is not expected to suffer the same fate as Thomas Cook.

To date, it seems that independent travel agent Hays Travel has been the most visible beneficiary. Hays has paid just £6 million to acquire all 555 of Thomas Cook’s UK retail travel agencies, and by late November, it had opened 450 of those stores, offered permanent contracts to 2,330 former Thomas Cook employees and announced plans to recruit some 1,500 more people to take its total workforce number up to 5,700. According to Managing Director John Hays, the company is increasing staffing “to ensure we have the highest customer service levels across all of our stores and our head office functions”.

European airlines should also experience more breathing space, although this is a sector that still remains firmly overcrowded.


Known as the company that commodified "mass travel" for Brits, travel agent Thomas Cook began by organising his first trip, between the English cities of Leicester and Loughborough in 1841.

By 1845, he was arranging trips between England and Scotland for groups of travellers.

It was 14 years before the company went international, offering "continental tours" from the English county of Essex to Antwerp in Belgium. The same trip took travellers to Brussels, before going on to Cologne and Heidelberg, Germany.

In 1865, the very first Thomas Cook high-street shop opened in London’s Fleet Street. It would be the first of hundreds of stores where British holidaymakers would flock in the hope of seeing the world.

The company led its first trip to America in 1866, followed by a tour of Palestine and Egypt in 1866. In 1873, Cook completed his first round-the-globe tour. The adventure was called the London to London tour. It took 222 days, covered more than 29,000 miles and cost around 200 guineas.

Thomas Cook can also be credited with the first iteration of the traveller’s cheque. The company introduced circular notes in 1874 as a simple way for travellers to have access to money in foreign countries.

Along the way, the Thomas Cook logo has seen plenty of different forms:

In 1892, Thomas Cook passed away. His son Mason Cook would follow him to his grave just seven years later. At that point, the company passed to Mason Cook’s three sons who embraced their family’s travel-focussed footsteps. The trio organised the first escorted tour through Africa, a five -month tour that started in Cairo and ended in Cape Town.

Then, one hundred years ago, it was time to take to the skies and the company organised its first air tour, flying passengers from New York to Chicago and throwing in ringside seats for the Dempsey-Tunney heavyweight boxing contest.

Not long after, the Cook family sold the business to the then owners of the Orient Express. By 1950, more than a million British holidaymakers were booking with Thomas Cook to travel abroad each year.

In 2003, the newly branded Thomas Cook airlines was launched and by 2019 the company had 560 stores around the UK. Sadly with today’s announcement it seems that the travels are finally over for Thomas Cook.


Thomas Cook's Leicester

Thomas Cook began his international travel company in 1841, with a successful one-day rail excursion from Leicester to Loughborough on 5 July. This landmark daytrip has earned Leicester the accolade of the ‘birthplace of tourism’ as it was from these humble roots that a whole new kind of travel business developed.

Early years in Market Harborough

Thomas Cook, originally from Derbyshire, moved to Market Harborough to work as a wood-turner in 1832. Whilst there, he joined the congregation of the local Baptist church and became actively involved in the promotion of temperance (the practice of drinking little or no alcohol). On June 9 th 1841, he set out to walk from Market Harborough to Leicester (15 miles) to attend a Temperance Society meeting in the town. On route, an idea occurred to him:

“A thought flashed through my brain – what a glorious thing it would be if the newly developed powers of railways and locomotion could be made subservient to the promotion of temperance”

He suggested hiring a train and carriages from the Midland Railway Company to transport the Leicester Temperance Society members to a temperance meeting in Loughborough the following month and the idea was received with enthusiasm.

History in the making – the first rail excursion

The first railway excursion left Campbell Street Station in Leicester for Loughborough on 5 th July 1841 at the cost of one shilling per passenger. Amongst the 485 passengers was Thomas Cook’s seven year old son John Mason Cook. The party travelled in open tub-style carriages and was accompanied by a band.

After a successful day of marches, speeches, games and tea in the park, the party arrived back at Leicester station at 10:30pm. History had been made. Today, a statue of Thomas Cook stands outside London Road Railway Station in celebration of this landmark event.

A move to Leicester in 1841

Two months after the first excursion to Loughborough, Cook moved to Leicester where he set up a bookselling and printing business at No.1 King Street.

During the next three summers Cook arranged a succession of trips between Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham on behalf of local temperance societies and Sunday schools. Although these trips helped to lay the foundations of his future business, Cook made little money from them aside from printing posters and handbills.

Cook’s Rooms in Granby Street

In 1843 Cook and his family moved to 26-28 Granby Street (known as ‘Cook’s Rooms’). He used the building as a hotel, reading room, print works and a booking office for his excursions. It was to be his home for the next 10 years.

As a Baptist, Thomas would have been familiar with the various Baptist chapels in Leicester. Amongst the key ones were the Charles Street Chapel (now Central Baptist Church) built in 1830 and the Belvoir Street Chapel or "Pork Pie Chapel" on Belvoir Street, built in 1845 to a design by Joseph Hansom (inventor of the horse-drawn cab).

Commercial ventures and the Great Exhibition of 1851

Thomas Cook's first commercial venture took place in the summer of 1845, when he organised a trip to Liverpool. By the end of 1850, he had visited Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1850, Sir Joseph Paxton, architect of the Crystal Palace, and John Ellis, chairman of the Midland Railway Company, persuaded Cook to devote himself to bringing workers from Yorkshire and the Midlands to London for the Great Exhibition. By the end of the season Thomas had taken 150,000 people to London, his final trains to the Exhibition carrying 3,000 children from Leicester, Nottingham and Derby.

The Temperance Hotel and Temperance Hall, Granby Street

1853 saw the opening of Cook’s Commercial and Family Temperance Hotel and the adjoining Temperance Hall in Granby Street. Their neighbours either side were pubs, The Nag’s Head on one side and The Wagon and Horses on the other, and Cook frequently clashed with their landlords.

Expansion into Europe

Whilst continuing to expand his business in Britain, Cook was determined to venture into Europe too. He managed to negotiate a route between Harwich and Antwerp, opening up the way for a grand circular tour to include Brussels, Cologne, the Rhine, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg and Paris, returning to London via Le Havre or Dieppe. By this route, during the summer of 1855, Thomas escorted his first tourists to Europe. The success of these European tours led to the development of two important travel systems: the hotel coupon of 1868 (to pay for hotel accommodation and meals abroad) and the circular note of 1874 (a form of travellers’ cheque which enabled tourist to obtain local currency in exchange for a paper note issued by Thomas Cook).

World Tours

Building on his successes in Europe, Thomas made an exploratory trip to North America in 1865 and set up a system of tours covering 4,000 miles of railways. Four years later, in 1869, he hired two steamers and conducted his first party up the Nile. Conducted world tours soon followed and became annual events.

John Mason Cook

Whilst Thomas was travelling round the world, his son, John Mason Cook, was building the company back home, moving the firm to a new head office at Ludgate Circus in London. John, the more commercially minded of the two, regularly argued with his father over the direction the company should take and by 1878 their partnership had ended.

Leicester and Thomas Cook’s local legacy

With the ending of the business partnership with his son, Thomas had more time to devote to his life in Leicester and built his retirement home 'Thorncroft' at 244 London Road. In 1877 he was a founder member of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Ltd., which set up 14 coffee and cocoa houses in the town to provide alternatives to pubs. Although now with alternative uses, many of these buildings still survive including the Victoria Coffee House (38 Granby Street), East Gates Coffee House (12-14 East Gates) and High Cross Coffee House (103-105 High Street).

The death of a great travel pioneer

Thomas Cook died in 1892 and was interred in Welford Road Cemetery with his wife and daughter. John Mason Cook continued to take the business from strength to strength, opening new offices in Leicester in 1894. The Thomas Cook Building at 5 Gallowtree Gate was intended as a celebration of the company with tiled friezes on its exterior telling the story of the first 50 years of Thomas Cook & Son.

John Mason Cook died just seven years after his father in 1899. Many of the objects he acquired on his travels over the years were given to the Town Museum (now Leicester Museum & Art Gallery). The business was inherited by John's three sons and during the first quarter of the 20 th Century, the firm of Thomas Cook and Son dominated the world travel scene.


Who was Thomas Cook?

In 1842 Thomas Cook, a former Baptist preacher, organised the first excursion on a steam train from Leicester to Loughborough for supporters of the teetotal Temperance Movement.

By 1855 he had started to organise trips overseas.

Thomas Cook was a social idealist. When he created the travel company, his goal was to improve society.

Thomas Cook archivist Paul Smith told Travel Weekly in 2016: “For Thomas Cook, travel was about social improvement. If people drank less, became better educated and did more with their time and money, society would benefit. Travel was a catalyst for improving society.

“If he could persuade trains to offer cheaper fares, he could promote them and enable more people from a lower class, the middle classes, to travel. In those days people did not travel for leisure only those who were very wealthy. He was trying to make travel easier, cheaper and safer.”

When Cook opened his first shop, Thomas Cook & Son, at 98 Fleet Street, London, in 1865, he claimed to have booked one million passengers on his trips.

The shop sold railway tickets, tours, including to Paris, Italy and Switzerland, as well as luggage, guidebooks and telescopes.

Thomas and his son John Mason Cook both died during the 1890s and the business was inherited by John’s three sons: Frank Henry, Ernest Edward and Thomas Albert.

In the first quarter of the twentieth century Thos Cook and Son dominated the travel market.

But in 1928, Frank and Ernest sold the business to the Belgian Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Européens, which operated the Orient Express.

During the war its Paris headquarters were taken over by occupied forces and the business came close to collapsing. Its assets were requisitioned by the British government and it was later sold to Britain’s four main railway companies.

When these were nationalised Thomas Cook became state owned in 1948.

The business went on to flourish in the post-war boom and in 1965 reported profits in excess of £1 million.

In 1972 Thomas Cook became privately owned again and went on to survive the recession of that decade which had laid claim to a number of travel firms.

In the 1980s and 1990s Thomas Cook grew its long-haul touring programme, and expanded its retail network.

In 1992 Thomas Cook was sold by Midland Bank to German bank, Westdeutsche Landesbank, and charter airline LTU Group.

In 2001, German travel group C&N Touristic AG became the sole owner of Thomas Cook changing its name to Thomas Cook AG.

Six years later in 2007, Thomas Cook Group was formed by the merger of Thomas Cook AG and MyTravel Group plc.

It went on to sign a joint venture with The Co-operative Group increasing its shop network to 1,200. Thomas Cook’s Going Places branded branches were rebranded under the Co-operative’s brand.

More recently, Thomas Cook has faced competition in the package holiday market from the likes of Jet2holidays, which became the second-largest Atol-holder in the UK in 2017 – a spot held by Cook for years.

It closed several hundred shops over the last three years with its store network reduced to around 550.
It began expanding its own-brand hotel portfolio hoping it would build future success.

But last summer’s extended heatwave, Brexit and a £1.1 billion write-down of its MyTravel business in May this year have contributed to its eventual demise.


A Brief History of Tourism and Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook (1808-92), a book salesman, Baptist preacher and tract distributor of Derbyshire, was a pioneer in the tourist industry. The map discussed in this exhibit was created by his company "Thomas Cook & Son," which is in its 175th year of business today.

According to Paul Smith, the company's archivist, Thomas Cook's son John was the one that was more "commercially minded" and consequently "internationalised" the company with offices in the US, Egypt and India. These are two of the over 10,000 brochures currently in the firm's archive.

Before delving into a deeper analysis of the map, it is necessary to discuss the historical context of Thomas Cook, the map&rsquos creator, and the industry of tourism. This historical overview will provide us with a greater understanding of the map&rsquos larger context, purpose and physical details that make it unique as a form of rhetoric and identify why it may be a &ldquoselective view of reality[1]&rdquo under the direction of its subjective creator.

The beginning of modern tourism is often traced back to the Grand Tour, a trip around the European continent, which was directed primarily at the wealthy classes. The Grand Tour flourished mainly from the late 16 th century until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840&rsquos. The Tour and other trips of similar kind were mainly associated with the nobility, wealthy gentry and wealthy youth of Western and Northern European nations[2], until around the mid-19 th century during which the availability of rail and steamship travel extended the practice to more of the middle class[3].

In 1841, Thomas Cook, a book salesman, Baptist preacher and tract distributor of Derbyshire, was inspired to take a group of over 500 temperance campaigners from Leicester to Loughborough and back for a delegate meeting on the Midland Counties Railway[4]. This soon became the first privately chartered excursion train to be public advertised, and the first of many more organized mass excursions to follow. Utilizing his initiative and organizing skills, Cook planned more and more trips that grew in demand, much of which was enabled via the revolution in transport technology. Eventually Cook established the Thomas Cook & Son Company with his son John Mason Cook, and grew tremendously in power and influence that nearly came to match that of the government. Eventually Cook began to expand his business beyond the European continent and extended his reach to America, Egypt, and India[5]. The nature of his tours also experienced a great shift as he moved beyond Europe into the less industrialized nations, in large part under his more &ldquocommercially minded&rdquo son[6] &ndash his enterprise in Egypt, for example, was more commercialized, luxurious and ultimately imperial. While Thomas Cook&rsquos early European tours of the 50&rsquos and 60&rsquos were aimed to be democratic and philanthropic missions, motivated by an idea of moral and social improvement and extending &ldquothe privilege of upper classes to the bourgeois and petit bourgeois of the industrialised nations[7]&rdquo so that the tours can be &lsquoan agent of &lsquoHuman Progress&rsquo, the tours of the 1880&rsquos in the dependencies and colonies of the British Empire reverted to a rich man&rsquos business, a tourism for aristocrats and colonials through &ldquopalatial hotels and houseboats[8].&rdquo This latter form reinforced &ldquorigidly hierarchic distinctions between white ruling classes and coloured subject peoples it [was] entirely dedicated to the convenience and amusement of aristocrats and colonials[9].&rdquo By this point Thomas Cook & Son became an institution of the British Empire &ndash both representative of and essential to the empire&rsquos operation, and deviating largely from the moral and social principles upon which the tours were originally founded[10].

[1] Mark S. Monmonier, Mapping It Out: Expository Cartography for the Humanities and Social Sciences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 21.

[2] Sorabella, Jean. "The Grand Tour." The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2003. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

[3] "The Grand Tour and Development of Tourism, 1600 to 1900." Osher Map Library - Smith Center for Cartographic Education. University of Southern Maine, 4 Oct. 2011. Web.


Watch the video: Thomas Cook collapse, BBC Breaking News at BST, 230919 (August 2022).