Thomas Cook – The “father” of the tourism industry

08:15:03 - October 28, 2021


Thomas Cook was born in central England as just an ordinary working-class man, but with passion and a sharp business mind, he founded one of the oldest travel companies in the world and is considered the father of modern tourism.

Thomas Cook’s first package tour was a rail trip that took more than 500 passengers from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841 to attend a temperance meeting in support of the temperance movement. With just 1 shilling (British currency at the time), passengers could get a round trip train travel, band entertainment, afternoon tea, and food. That trip opened to the development of a travel empire and of the modern tourism industry.

In the following years, Thomas Cook organized more package trips. The first trips were between destinations in the UK such as Liverpool, London, Scotland. By 1855, Thomas Cook’s trips expanded to other destinations in Europe, starting with a tour around Belgium, Germany, and France with the final stop in Paris.

His son, John Mason Andrew Cook, also joined the company and in 1872 the company was changed its name to Thomas Cook & Son, developing more trips with themed trips and more new experiences. The development of Thomas Cook almost paralleled the development of the tourism industry during this period.



Thomas Cook is the pioneer with many initiatives and contributions to the tourism industry, bringing travel in a way and on a scale like never before.

The trips he organized offered unprecedented experiences for everyone when at that time most people were limited to their town and unlikely to travel to a town 20 miles away (about 32km). Thomas Cook’s trips were initially intended for the working class, but later attracted the middle class and even the royal and military.

He is also the person who brought important initiatives to become popular in the tourism industry later such as travel vouchers, travel cheques, etc. Many other travel publications such as magazines, travel advertisements, guidebooks he published were very valuable to European tourists at that time. His greatest legacy is making it possible for so many people, especially the working class, to explore new destinations by travel.



In 2019, the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook Group after 178 years of strong development shocked the tourism industry. There were many reasons behind the company’s downfall, including the company’s weak ability to adapt and compete in the digital age, along with other social problems in the UK and source markets at that time, which affected the company’s business.

However, after two months of declaring bankruptcy, China’s Fosun Tourism Group bought the company for 11 million pounds. A year later, in September 2020, Thomas Cook was relaunched as an online travel agency. Relaunching during the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said it would initially sell holidays to destinations on the UK Government’s list of safe travel corridors.

In July 2020, Fosun relaunched its Thomas Cook operations in China and attracted about 170,000 customers. The following September, the company also started the steps to restart in the UK.

Jim Qian, CEO and Chairman of Fosun Tourism Group, said that in China, Thomas Cook was not just an online travel agency but would be a lifestyle platform offering a wide range of products and related services such as hotels, tickets, and entertainment.

Thomas Cook – The “father” of the tourism industry


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