Wednesday 16 September 2020 3:35 pm

Thomas Cook relaunches as online-only firm

Iconic holiday firm Thomas Cook will today relaunch as an online-only company, a year after going bust in dramatic circumstances. 

To start with, the new travel company will sell holidays to destinations that are on the government’s safe travel list. 

In November, Chinese firm Fosun, which also owns package holiday brand Club Med, acquired the rights to Thomas Cook’s 179-year-old name and intellectual property. 

However, the relaunched company will have little in common with its predecessor. It will initially be run by a skeleton staff of 50, a mere fraction of the 30,000 employees it had before going bankrupt.

Whereas before it operated its own hotels and aircraft, Thomas Cook will now partner with accommodation providers Web Beds and Hotel Beds, as well as low-cost airline Easyjet. 

It will, however, keep the old company’s famous “smiling heart” logo.

Over the coming months, it said it would look to add new flight partners and other travel options, as well as additional hotels and other types of accommodation. 

Further destinations will be added when government restrictions are lifted.

Alan French, Thomas Cook’s UK chief executive, said: “We have reinvented one of the most recognisable names in British travel. 

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“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.”

The collapse of Thomas Cook led to the largest peace time repatriation of UK citizens, with an estimated 150,000 stranded abroad when the firm ceased trading. 

Jane Bloomfield, data firm Kantar’s chief growth officer, said: “Consumer confidence is key to any brand’s recovery, particularly for a brand that has gone through a significant crisis as Thomas Cook has.

“This becomes even more important because trust is the cornerstone of any relationship consumers have with brands.

“It’s especially important that early on, the new Thomas Cook brand is clearly established. What does it stand for? What does it offer? It was an incredibly iconic brand and it can still build on that.”

Its relaunch comes at a time of great tension in the global travel industry, which has been decimated by the current pandemic.

Firms such as Hays Travel, which bought Thomas Cook’s high street stores after it collapsed, and Anglo-German giant Tui have been forced into sweeping job cuts and store closures due to the downturn in travel.

Data yesterday from the World Tourism Organization showed that international arrivals declined 65 per cent in the first half of 2020, translating into around $460bn in export revenues.

The UN body said that it would take four years for tourism numbers to recover.