a look at the rise and fall of the travel agency


Thomas Cook’s first vacation was a 15-mile train ride for supporters of the temperance movement from Leicester to Loughborough.

A woman looks at the Thomas Cook statue on September 23, 2019 in Leicester, UK.

Darren Staples / Getty Images

Cook rented a train from the Midland Railway Company to transport supporters of the temperance movement to Leicester to an anti-alcohol meeting at Loughborough in July 1841. He charged the 485 passengers one shilling per person.

Source: Leicester history

Trips to temperance meetings have spread to other temperance societies and Sunday schools nearby. Cook recognized the commercial appeal in 1845 and organized a leisurely tour of Liverpool. It was booked by 1200 people.



Flickr / Beverley Goodwin

The popularity of the service allowed Cook to expand into international travel over the decade.

the cook’s son, John Mason Cook, took over the business in 1879 and ran it for 20 years until his own death; his three sons succeed him then.

Source: Telegraph, CNN

Thomas Cook was known for planning low cost, total package vacations.

Thomas Cook planes

Thomas Cook planes.


The company recently boasted 22 million customers per year and a little over 21,000 employees. The company also had 550 travel agencies, 40,000 hotel rooms and 105 planes.

The company operated primarily in 16 countries across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands.


In a 2019 report issued by the company, Thomas Cook’s most popular vacation destinations were Spain, Turkey and Greece.

The various experiences mentioned as the highlights of the package included visiting banana plantations in the Canary Islands and tasting local dishes in Tunisia.

A 2018 report said their most popular package was typically seven to 10 nights and highly customizable.

Source: Associated press

The Thomas Cook bankruptcy has left 600,000 people stranded at airports and hotels around the world, triggering what Reuters has called the UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation effort. It has also left more than 21,000 people out of work.

Thomas cook

Thomas Cook passengers at Mallorca airport after the travel agency collapsed Monday morning.

Enrique Calvo / Reuters

If the 178-year-old brand were to survive somehow, the only foreseeable potential buyer would be Fosun, a Chinese conglomerate that was the company’s largest shareholder, according to the BBC.

Source: Inside the business community, NPR, Reuters

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