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Britain's oldest travel firm

Thomas Cook dates back to 1841 when its eponymous founder was born in Derbyshire.


He organised his first excursion in 1841, a 12-mile rail journey from Leicester to Loughborough.


His first trip for profit came four years later, followed by his first continental trip in 1855.


The business opened its first shop on Fleet Street in London in 1865 and hosted its first American tour a year later.


It went on to pioneer fixed price hotel coupons and later, the Cook’s Circular Note – a precursor to the travellers cheque.


Cook’s son John took charge of the business in 1879 and set about turning it into a global organisation.


His father died in 1892, aged 83, followed by John Cook himself in 1899, aged 65, whereby the business passed into the hands of sons Frank, Ernest and Bert.


In 1919, Cook became the first travel agent to advertise pleasure trips by air. The business was sold in 1928 and, after the Second World War, became state-owned.


Its profits exceeded £1 million for the first time in 1965. The business re-entered private ownership in 1972, relocating to Peterborough in 1977.


The company adopted its famous ‘Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it’ tagline in 1984 before being bought by a German consortium in 1992. Condor and Neckermann later acquired the business in 2001.


Thomas Cook Airlines was launched in the UK in 2003. Cook merged with MyTravel in 2007 to create Thomas Cook Group.


Cook was saved from the brink of collapse in late 2011 thanks to a cash injection from its lenders and intervention from government to ease its troubles.


It introduced its now-familiar yellow sunny heart logo in 2013.


In 2015, the company announced a new strategic partnership with Chinese travel giant Fosun, now Cook’s largest shareholder and the business behind a new £900 million rescue package.


Cook issued two profit warnings in late 2018 and announced a strategic review of its airline in early 2019.


Details of a £750 million rescue package, led by Fosun, were announced in July, rising to £900 million in late August before a demand from Cook’s lenders for a further £200 million headroom.

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TTG - Travel Trade Gazette
For Smarter, Better, Fairer Travel
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