What can we learn from how offers ruined Thomas Cook?

Everyone likes a good holiday deal and ever since the 1950s post-war holiday boom which saw one million Britons travel abroad, the industry has been thriving, with operators selling package holidays ever since.

However, package holidays actually started long before that – especially for one of the leading luminaries in the industry; Thomas Cook.

As early as 1841, the travel agent arranged his first official ‘tour’ which was a train trip between Leicester and Loughborough for temperance supporters, while in 1855 Cook accompanied two parties abroad exploring Belgium, France and Germany.

Over the next couple of decades, the company grew offering more and more holidays and trips around Europe which at the time were aimed at either the upper class or industrialists  and businessmen of the time.

Effectively, there was no need for deals or offers, indeed this was an age where there wasn’t really such a thing. In 1872, Cook essentially sold what could be described as the first package holidays – a 222-day tour to Egypt, via the USA, Japan, China and Singapore, covering 25,000 miles and costing 200 guineas (£210) per person.

Package Holiday Boom

With the widespread availability of commercial aeroplanes, travel operators were quick to form relationships with the manufacturers; the savviest eventually even branching out into this sector – Thomas Cook being one of them.

This meant that they could offer a wide range of deals which comprised of flights, hotels and even airport transfers so that families could get everything they needed for what resembled a fair price. Introducing the ‘kids under a certain age’ go free incentive made sure that they were able to grab a significant proportion of the market.

As a result, the company’s popularity surged as eager holidaymakers flooded Thomas Cook travel agencies around the UK, enticed in by tempting deals in the windows of each premise and soon they had expanded their holiday destinations.

Transatlantic holidays soon became popular with deals which looked too good to be true at times for destinations such as Florida (US) and resorts on Caribbean hotspots such as Barbados, St Lucia and Jamaica.

Understanding how to present a deal and the mechanics around it, can be a sticking point for some companies. In the travel industry however, it is often the case that their entire business model is built around special deals and being competitive in the marketplace.

Too many deals or failure to differentiate?

To survive and thrive in business, it is often the case that you need to adapt appropriately whether this be to industry trends, technology or even to your customer’s needs.

While deals essentially underpinned Thomas Cook for decades, it may be too contentious to say the failure of their company was solely down to irresponsible commercial strategy, however, perhaps there was a lack of understanding who their target customer was and what they liked.

As more and more new travel operators started over the last few years, each one has narrowed down into a specific niche, so that they can attract a certain audience. This is where they subsequently began to gain a competitive advantage over big companies such as Thomas Cook.

This combined with the fact that for the last few years, the company were starting to stretch themselves just to stay competitive, instead of adapting or even re-strategising no doubt had an effect as their smaller, leaner competitors carried on evolving.

Deals are definitely a great way for businesses to grow, however, they should be used in the right way. At Snizl, our deal platform allows you to create customised deals that are perfect for your business, while making sure that our network of interested buyers see them.


Check out our 30-day non-obligatory trial and see how you can start benefiting right now!

Matt Haynes

Written by Matt Haynes

Matt is a professional Copywriter/Journalist with experience in brand strategy and growth marketing.

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