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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Thomas Cook relaunches as an online travel company


Thomas Cook relaunches as an online travel company after the brand name was bought for £11million by a Chinese firm

  • The 178-year-old travel company collapsed last September with 9,000 job losses
  • Chinese firm Fosun Tourism Group acquired the Thomas Cook brand for £11m
  • The new version sells holidays online and on the phone but does not have stores  

The Thomas Cook brand has been ‘reinvented’ as an online travel company.

Chinese firm Fosun Tourism Group acquired the brand for £11million after the 178-year-old travel company collapsed in September 2019.

The new version began selling holidays online and over the phone on Wednesday just after midnight but does not have any stores.

The Thomas Cook brand has relaunched as an online travel company. Pictured is the brand's new homepage

The Thomas Cook brand has relaunched as an online travel company. Pictured is the brand’s new homepage

It employs around 50 people and retains the brand’s logo.

The travel firm says its new website, www.thomascook.com, 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.

It also adds that Thomas Cook ‘will continue to invest in its digital offering to adapt to changing holiday needs and lifestyles, including adding new flight partners and other travel options, as well as additional hotels and other types of accommodation’.

Alan French, who was group strategy and technology director at Thomas Cook when it collapsed, has been hired as UK chief executive of the new travel agency and described the relaunch as ‘an honour’.

He said: ‘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.’

The failure of Thomas Cook led to 9,000 jobs being lost and the repatriation of around 150,000 holidaymakers who were overseas. The new version will not have any stores

The failure of Thomas Cook led to 9,000 jobs being lost and the repatriation of around 150,000 holidaymakers who were overseas. The new version will not have any stores 

The failure of Thomas Cook led to 9,000 jobs being lost and the repatriation of around 150,000 holidaymakers who were overseas.

Mr French pledged that the new travel agency’s customers can be ‘reassured their money is protected’ due to its ‘robust financial structure’.

Thomas Cook only offers trips to destinations from which UK holidaymakers can return without entering quarantine, such as Italy, Turkey and parts of Greece.

The travel industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the self-isolation requirement causing demand for foreign breaks to plummet.

Mr French 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 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

Alan French, UK chief executive, Thomascook.com

‘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.

‘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.’

Jim Qian, chairman and 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, reminded customers ahead of the launch to be sure of their rights when booking.

He said: ‘Package holidays booked through Thomas Cook would be Atol protected, however, anyone looking to book 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.’

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