By the time you’re reading this, the “final” Brexit exit date of 31st October will have past. Whatever the final result was, when we look back at the last couple of years in travel, there is no doubt that the process of Brexit itself has taken a huge toll on the industry. For reasons that I have cited in previous articles, we have seen the demise of some iconic UK brands, not least of all, Thomas Cook.
It will be one of those historic moments where everyone will remember where they were when it was announced. Me? I was up into the small hours with my team, ready to push the button on rebooking customers onto alternative flights and holidays should the worst happen. We were convinced it wouldn’t. So was everyone else. But we also knew that the final flight was due to land at 5am, and likely the announcement would be made once the wheels were on the tarmac. Sadly, we were right.
The demise of Thomas Cook has been attributed to a plethora of possibilities. In reality however it’s probably a combination of many.
My personal feeling is that as a brand, they failed to keep up with the times. They were irrelevant. Even in the ultra-competitive package holiday market, operators like TUI, with their “Go mahoosive with the all inclusive” and Jet2Holidays with their Jess Glynn campaigns continue to expand, develop and break new ground.
Jet2Holidays for instance offer resort check in with selected holidays. No queuing at the bag drop – you check in for your flight at your hotel in the morning, and when you arrive at the airport – you breeze through security. Nice eh?
But Thomas Cook failed to capitalise on the shift in market expectations. People don’t simply want to “fly and flop” anymore – they want the VIP experience, regardless of what they have paid. They want the Instagram photos, and everything that comes with it.
Thomas Cook stopped their 18-30 programme last year as demand dwindled. The idea of getting drunk in your resort with holiday reps pouring local sambucca down your throat with bikini competitions etc is draconian by todays standards. But they didn’t seem to get it.
Other companies have actully introduced package holidays aimed exclusively at this demographic, with their offering extending to spa days, sight-seeing, yacht trips, escorted club nights and more.
Evidence of their lethargy was evidenced when I went to talk at a conference in Majorca in a Thomas Cook branded hotel. I spoke with guests in the evening, and discussed where they came from and how they booked their holidays (never one to miss an opportunity). I was amazed at how many still used their local Thomas Cook store.
While this may initially seem encouraging, considering the average age of the passenger, they had been booking with Thomas cook probably for 30-40 years, which highlighted my concern. Their customer base had grown up and evolved, but Thomas Cook hadn’t – where were the younger markets to fill the gaps?
There are of course several other reasons why such an iconic brand has fallen, however being part of a company who supported them, and loved to work with them, sadly, it had been coming for a long time.
The only solace I suppose is the buy-out by John Hays which has managed to secure the jobs and livelihoods of thousands. Its just a shame that we wont see the yellow and blue of the worlds oldest travel company on our streets again.
If you have been affected by the Thomas Cook collapse, you can get advice and further information at