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Thomas Cook quits Australia as winds of change batter UK  

March 26, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The world’s oldest travel agency, Thomas Cook, has sold its Australian travel insurance business a year after launch, following a tough year for many travel companies in Britain.

The Australian Financial Review reported yesterday that Thomas Cook’s insurance venture had been bought by its Hobart-based chief executive, Mark Tarring, who has rebranded the business Tilda Travel and expanded it to become a “consumer travel and travel money one-stop shop”.

Thomas Cook, a 180-year-old British company, was a well-known name on the Australian travel scene until 2000, when it sold its Australian businesses. It returned to Australia in 2017 as an online-only travel money and insurance business.

Thomas Cook is not alone in finding the latest British summer difficult. The London-based Financial Times has reported that January’s peak booking period for summer holidays was weaker than usual, partly because of a long, hot summer at home (why chase the sun abroad?) and partly because of Brexit uncertainties. Nothing is certain about Brexit and Britain’s parliament seems semi-paralysed over the issue.

British travel agent association ABTA reported that the average number of holidays taken per person in the UK had fallen from 3.8 in 2017 to 3.4 last year.

Thomas Cook (22 November 1808 – 18 July 1892) founder of the travel firm

Thomas Cook issued two profit warnings in 2018 and moved to a pre-tax loss of GBP 163 million in its annual results, compared with a GBP 9 million profit the year before.

Last week, Thomas Cook announced a restructuring program that could entail the shedding of more than 300 jobs. The listed company – which has a strong high-street bricks-and-mortar presence along with an online arm – said consumers had booked more than 60% of its holidays via its website last year.

Thomas Cook chief executive, Peter Fankhauser said: “Customers don’t just want to book their holiday online, they also want to pick the room in which they will stay or their spot by the pool before they even set off,” the Financial Times reported.

Thomas Cook is said to be the world’s best-known name in travel. Founder Thomas Cook (born 1808) set it up with a successful one-day rail excursion from Leicester in the English Midlands to Loughborough on 5 July 1841. The company went on to become one of the world’s biggest travel firms.

Incidentally, Thomas Cook may be the world’s oldest travel agent but it’s not the oldest travel company. That honour belongs to another British company, Cox and Kings, founded in 1758 and said to be the first company ever to focus its business on travel and tourism.

Written by Peter Needham

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