Thomas Cook was the UK’s first travolutionary. The brand was born in 1841 with a train charter to take 500 passengers from Leicester to neighbouring Loughborough. Cook organised the trip to attend a Temperance meeting, although for many of his customers this was really an opportunity to travel on a train for the first time. Rail tourism was born.
A decade on and Cook had expanded into international travel, starting with trips to Paris with a revolutionary travel model we still recognise today, offering complete holiday packages that included rail and cross-channel travel, accommodation and meals. With its founder a serial innovator, how ironic it is that his brand died because it lost its spirit of innovation.
Thomas Cook went on to become not only the UK’s biggest tour operator and travel agent (for a while), but the world’s leading foreign exchange retailer. It exited this business in 2001, just as digital financial services were taking off, selling its Global Financial Services division to Travelex.