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Thomas Cook: The Rise & Fall of Britain’s Oldest Travel Agent

TVMucho Show of the week

Mon, September 30th, 2019

Sunday 8pm – 9pm, Channel 4

Beginning life as an organiser of day trips between Leicester and Loughborough in 1841, Thomas Cook grew into a household name, with millions of Brits enjoying holidays around the globe with them. The firm included names such as Winston Churchill, Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling as customers who utilised their services. It was one of the few tour operators that still had hundreds of shops on the high street as others in the sector moved largely online. But last week it suffered an ignominious demise as over 600000 customers were left stranded abroad, with many being threatened by hotel security guards and others facing demands from resort management for large amounts of money after Thomas Cook slipped into insolvency. A quarter of those stranded were Brit’s, and yet again the CAA were forced to enact a large operation to repatriate them – this time on a much larger scale than the Monarch Airlines collapse in 2017. On a much sadder aspect, some 9000 people face the prospect of being made redundant by the 178 year old company, and the public certainly appreciate this – there were several instances of ‘whip-rounds’ on the final Thomas Cook flights to make sure the crew were paid for their efforts.

The company has faced tough financial challenges for over a decade but it looked like they would escape bankruptcy after the Chinese conglomerate, Fosun, and the firms lenders agreed a huge cash injection of £900m. Fosun were particularly keen to deploy the Thomas Cook brand in Asia so things looked positive, but on the 20th of September the dominos started to topple as Thomas Cook were tasked to find an additional £200m by their main banks to cover the slow winter period. After exhausting all avenues, which included pleading to the UK government, insolvency was inevitable.

This documentary goes in depth to examine the whole story of the company, from the humble and simple beginnings through to the difficult times, desperately seeking to answer the question on many minds – why did this happen? With the company blaming a wider variety of factors from Brexit to the terrorism in Tunisia,  the programme also seeks to understand what might have been done to prevent the collapse and what can be done in future to prevent recurrences with other operators. An interesting insight which seeks to extract the facts and not repeat the social media rumours.


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