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On this Day 1979: Thomas Cook exhibition in Leicester

On this Day

On this Day 1979: Thomas Cook exhibition in Leicester

OTD, November 13th, 1979…

ATV Today reporter John Mitchell took a look around an exhibition at Leicester to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Thomas Cook Tour Holiday.

John speaks with the organiser of the display, Alan Channery, about the life of Thomas Cook who was a teetotaller and built up one of the world’s largest package tour companies which remained in business until 2019.

The original package holiday was a train journey from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841. There were 500 passengers on board that day. And for most of them, it was the first time they’d ever ridden a steam train. People crowded the streets, filled the windows, and packed onto bridges just to get a glimpse of the carriage as it hurtled along the tracks at breakneck speed. And when the train pulled into Loughborough, the intrepid travellers were greeted by a brass band and throngs of cheering crowds.

The trip was organised by Thomas Cook, who later wrote of the journey: “And thus was struck the keynote of my excursions, and the social idea grew upon me.” The 22-mile package holiday cost a shilling and sixpence – about a day’s wages back then. But financially, there was nothing in it for Mr Cook. Although he organised repeat trips each summer for the next three years, he wouldn’t turn a profit until 1845. Thomas Cook was a pioneer in the field of this kind of travel and the inventor of convenient package holidays.

After Mr Cook’s retirement, some 33 years later, the company was passed on from son to grandsons, however in 1928 it ceased to be a family business. From that point on, it changed hands five times, counting among its owners a Belgian train operator, a German bank and even the British government. After the original business collapsed in September 2019, its outlets were bought by North-East-based company Hays Travel. The Thomas Cook brand and logo was purchased by osun Tourism Group, the owners of Club Med.

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