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Thomas Cook’s Return Bodes Well for the Industry

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 9/17/2020 Rich Thomaselli
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So allow me, if you will, to tell a little story.

Long ago, a man by the name of G.D. Crain thought there was a void in the trade magazine sector for a publication to cover the advertising world. He had a great desire to tell the story of how companies went to market to promote their products, and the advertising agencies that helped them do so.

So he cobbled together money from his family, attracted what he thought were the best editors and writers, and launched a weekly called “Advertising Age.” For decades it has been known as the ‘Bible of the Ad Industry.’ Full disclosure – I worked for Ad Age for 12 years.

So far you’re thinking, ‘Great. That sounds like a very unremarkable story.’ And in most ways it is.

Until you factor in the timing.

G.D Crain conceived of his idea in 1929, watched as the stock market crashed and started The Great Depression in October of that year, and still went ahead and launched the first issue of Advertising Age in January of 1930.

Ninety years later, the publication is still with us.

Crain proved prescient, to say the least. And I thought of that story earlier today after writing about the return of Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel agency that was started almost 180 years ago. The company suffered devastating financial losses, was forced to shutter and ended up stranding thousands of its customers all over the world.

But a Chinese company stepped in, bought Thomas Cook and the famous name and has relaunched the British business as an online travel agency.

Like G.D. Crain, the Chinese company, Fosun, thought it was an advantageous time to do so – despite both entities realizing, and then suffering through, the worst calamities of their respective time. Crain with the Depression, Fosun with the coronavirus pandemic that quite literally brought the travel industry to a standstill.

But beyond the lessons about personal fortitude and forging ahead through life’s difficulties, this bodes well for travel agents. Yes, I understand that Thomas Cook’s return is online only, and that a longtime battle has brewed between brick-and-mortar travel agencies and OTAs. But the industry has seen so few signs in the last six months that there is a return to travel afoot; it needed this.

It needed somebody, like Crain and his magazine, to make a financial but also emotional investment in travel.

If Fosun knows something we don’t, more power to them. But this is a sign to the industry and the public that it believes travel will bounce back.

Will it last? Hard to say. Thomas Cook is not just re-joining the fray of travel advisors; it is doing so in a crowded, convoluted marketplace of online travel agencies. But there is value in the name, especially in Great Britain and Europe. Thomas Cook, the man, was an innovator. Almost two centuries later, his company is as well-known overseas as Friday Night Football is in America.

Some traditions never die.

Let’s hope this is one that is reborn, and stays reborn.


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