Thomas Cook is an integrated tourism group whose roots go back to 1841 with the creation of packaged tours in England. After many structural changes and a crisis affecting its Tour Operator and travel agency businesses, the group has embarked on a major overhaul in recent years, and the hotel industry is a key driver of its new strategy.
Thomas Cook lived in Leicestershire (England) where in 1841, at the age of 32, this carpenter had the idea of negotiating train prices for a group of 500 people he accompanied. In 1845, he launched the first organized tours to Liverpool.
He organised his first group tours to Europe in 1855, and to the United States eleven years later, one year after the opening of his first travel agency in 1965 on the famous London Fleet Street. The group's activity extended from 1868 to the hotel business, with vouchers offering discounts on hotel nights or meals in partner properties. Thomas Cook began cruising on the Nile in 1869, then around the world in 1872.
After growing up in family hands for several generations, and entering the business of selling airline tickets in 1919, the company passed into the hands of Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits and Grands Express Européens in 1928. It was nationalized under the aegis of British Railways after the war, but became a private company again in 1972. It was bought in 1992 by Westdeutsche Landesbank and the German airline LTU -the latter exited in 1995. Meanwhile, Thomas Cook purchased the Travellers Cheques and sold its business travel division to American Express. In the following years, the group bought Sunworld and tour operator Flying Colours.
In 1999 Preussag (present-day TUI) took over 25% of the group's capital which was fully acquired in 2001 by the German C&N Touristic AG, a joint venture between Lufthansa and Karstadt AG (a mail order company). C&N had already bought the French Havas Voyages in 2000, and became one of the leading integrated tourism players in Europe, also operating its own hotels.
The company, which became Thomas Cook AG, then Thomas Cook Group Plc, listed in London since 2007 and merged with MyTravel Group Plc, is a leading European tour operator offering mainly holiday packages as well as flights, cruises and hotels. In 2008, it purchased the hotel reservation website Hotel4U.
Heavily indebted, the company had to sell some of its holdings in 2010, such as the one in Hoteles y Clubs de Vacaciones, bought by Iberostar in 2011. New strategic orientations were developed by its management in order to overcome the slump affecting its core business of Tour Operator and Travel Agent, and the hotel industry was one of the major axes of its turnaround.
Today, Thomas Cook's hotel division is one of the many activities of the integrated tourism group which operates six brands: Sentido Hotels, Smartline, SunConnect Resorts, SunPrime Resorts, SunWing Resorts and Casa Cook. The latter, launched at the end of 2015, illustrates the group's answer to the development of new lifestyle hotel concepts.
In 2017, Thomas Cook ranked 28th in the world with more than 46,000 keys operated under its own brands in more than 200 hotels.