Thomas Cook relaunches as online travel agency
One of the most famous names in British hospitality, Thomas Cook relaunches today as an online travel business.
The move follows the acquisition of the company - which initially ceased trading in September last year - by international leisure company Fosun Tourism Group.
Branded as a ‘Covid-ready’ travel company, Thomas Cook will initially sell holidays to destinations on the safe travel corridor list.
Licensed by the CAA and ATOL-protected, the new Thomas Cook will launch as a purely online business via a website, offering customers thousands of hotels and flight routes so they can design their own holidays.
At launch, holidays will be available in popular beach destinations and cities in countries including Italy, Greece and Turkey, in line with the current travel corridors.
Customers will be able to choose from room-only to all-inclusive options, across three, four and five-star hotels.
The new website puts customers in control of their own holiday, with the ability to design their trip according to their budget, needs and specifications.
Add-ons will include transfers, car hire, airport parking, currency and travel insurance.
Alan French, who held the role of group strategy and technology director at the former Thomas Cook, has been appointed chief executive of the new venture.
He said: “We have reinvented one of the most recognisable names in British travel.
“Our new business will combine fantastic UK based customer service with an updated operating model protected by Atol and with the backing of a multi-billion-dollar organisation.
“We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We and our Fosun backers are taking the long view and we want to offer choice, customisation, and 24/7 on-holiday customer care to families who wish to travel now and in the future.”
He added: “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 will not charge customers a fee to change their holidays if government rules change.”
Fosun Tourism Group, which also owns Club Med, acquired the brand and online assets of Thomas Cook in November last year.
Jim Qian, chief executive of Fosun Tourism Group, said: “Thomas Cook has a proud heritage and after acquiring the brand last year we wanted to quickly return it to its home in the UK.
“Supporting the growth of the brand in China and its relaunch in the UK is a big step in our plan to turn Thomas Cook into a global success story and a key milestone in the development of the Fosun Tourism Group’s strategy.”
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, was less than impressed with the relaunch.
He said: “While some previous Thomas Cook customers may be pleased to see it relaunching as an online travel agent, the events of the past few months should act as a reminder that just because a brand is a household name does not mean you can necessarily rely on it to treat you fairly.
“Package holidays booked through Thomas Cook would be ATOL protected, however many of the big online travel agents have proven time and time again through the pandemic they aren’t able to offer the same level of protection or customer service as better, traditional tour operators, making it difficult to secure refunds that customers are legally owed for cancelled holidays.
“Anyone looking to book with Thomas Cook should check its terms and conditions carefully first to make sure they understand what rights they have if their trip is disrupted by changing government rules on travel corridors, and under what circumstances they can claim a full refund.”