November 2019, Amsterdam
Farewell Thomas Cook. Gone but not forgotten
There will be far-reaching consequences from the collapse of a 178-year-old icon of travel and our thoughts are with all affected
The fall-out from the collapse of Thomas Cook will be far reaching. Right now, however, there is still a feeling of disbelief and shock, even though its troubles were strongly signalled. The hard fact is that the UK government (with enough problems of its own) felt it could not step in, and there are just about no assets in the business to entice a financial rescuer.
In these already unsettled times, our thoughts are with the group’s 21,000 employees, stranded and disappointed customers, and partners and suppliers that include an estimated 6,000 hotels that rely on Thomas Cook for bookings. Already, travel and hospitality companies in Europe are telling us that they are being kept very busy putting in place measures to deal with the consequences.
At EyeforTravel, the team felt profoundly sad that a 178-year-old icon of travel had not been able to adapt and thrive in a digital age. A long-standing supporter of EyeforTravel, Thomas Cook regularly sent high-level speakers to events like the upcoming Revenue and Optimisation & Growth Summit, (Amsterdam, Nov 24-25) and EyeforTravel North America, (Chicago, Oct 28-29). Over the years it also offered insight and expertise for articles, reports and webinars.
The end was nigh late last Friday afternoon when the beleaguered company issued a statement to address the recent media speculation on its recapitalisation plans. There had, it explained, been a call for a further £200 million to see it through the winter, on top of the £900m rescue deal already agreed with its main shareholder Fosun.
But broadly speaking, over the past decade, the group faced strengthening headwinds. For one, the rise of online travel agents and the proliferation of Wifi and usage of mobile devices helped to put customers in control of their own trip and led to the slide in popularity of the package holiday. More recently, Brexit jitters and hot weather, prompting ‘staycations’, caused UK demand to slump, while suppliers became less willing to extend credit, and political uncertainty hit key markets like Tunisia and Turkey.
In the end, Thomas Cook simply could not keep up.
There will be winners and losers from its demise. But the formula for business success has changed forever, and will continue to do so in an increasingly tech-driven landscape.