Thomas Cook has been revived as a "Covid-ready" OTA, almost a year to the day since the iconic travel brand was feared lost for good.
The online-only business will initially focus on flexible, customisable trips to countries on the government’s travel corridor list.
At launch, Cook will offer "thousands of hotels and flight routes" so customers can design their own holidays; destinations will include a range of beach and city options, in countries such as Italy, Greece and Turkey.
The new Cook website (www.thomascook.com) will allow customers to design trips according to their budget, needs and holiday preferences, and add transfers, car hire, airport parking, forex and insurance.
Its digital offering will evolve over the coming months with the addition of new flight partners, hotels and accommodation providers, as well as new destinations as and when government restrictions are lifted.
Cook will also retain its familiar sunny heart branding.
The new operation has been granted an Atol by the CAA, and will utilise a trust fund model to protect customers’ cash – this means that Cook won’t be able to access any payments until customers have returned home from their holidays.
The relaunch comes after China’s Fosun Tourism Group, Cook’s largest shareholder when the business collapsed on 23 September last year, acquired the Cook brand last November.
In January, The Times reported Fosun had taken on around "a dozen" Cook executives to help rebuild the brand, including Alan French, Cook’s former group strategy and technology director; Raj Sharma, a former finance executive; and Phil Gardner, former Cook head of sales, e-commerce and marketing.
Fosun has also retained two of Cook’s own-brand hotel lines, Casa Cook and Cook’s Club.
It is understood Fosun, which also owns Club Med, will use Cook to sell Club Med product and trips, expanding its reach in the winter sports sector.
French, who has been installed as Cook’s UK chief executive, said the team had "reinvented" one of the most recognisable names in British travel, with the new business combining UK-based customer service with an updated operating model that protected holidays through Atol and came with the financial might and backing of Fosun.
"We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic," said French. "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.
"Our passion is travel and we’re focused on providing great hotels at destinations holidaymakers love, so our customers can design their own break. With flexibility, 24/7 on-holiday care and Atol protection, customers can book a Thomas Cook holiday with confidence."
French said Cook would be able to offer customers greater choice, and a "better booking experience".
"Our website is designed to be fast and simple to use, and our priority is to ensure customers can book their holiday with absolute confidence," said French.
"Thanks to new ownership and a new robust financial structure, customers can be reassured their money is protected. We will use a trust model to ring-fence customers’ payments, meaning Thomas Cook only receives customers’ money once they’ve returned from holiday."
Reflecting on Cook’s painful demise last September, French added: "Relaunching Thomas Cook as a business designed for today’s holidaymaker is an honour. 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."
Jim Qian, chair 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."
At launch, Cook will offer room-only and all-inclusive options across a range of three-, four- and five-star hotels, departing multiple UK airports.