Why Thomas Cook failed to weather the storm


After a 178 year history it is easy to become sentimental about the demise of Thomas Cook. Nevertheless, however strong the brand, businesses that fail to keep apace of evolving market trends and new competitors in the marketplace will always face challenges, writes Dr Crispin Dale, expert in tourism developments and strategy.

Thomas Cook joins a list of high-profile brands such as Blockbuster and Woolworths that are no longer in existence and it can be surmised that a number of factors resulted in its decline:

Thomas Cook has been through a difficult period resulting in rebranding, organizational restructuring and changed leadership. Merging with MyTravel and the Co-operative Group well over a decade ago meant that the company became too large and unresponsive to change as market forces evolved and new competitors emerged.

Developments in mobile technology have given customers the scope to independently package the various components of their holiday, including transport, accommodation, transfers and excursions. We have all become armchair travel agents.

Supply and demand have both changed, too.  Competitors such as AirBnB have disrupted the business model of the tourism industry making it far easier to select accommodation that meets personal needs.  And once popular parts of the business such as the Club 18-30 brand failed as millennials’ tastes evolved to favour more authentic and esteem based experiences.

And, of course, the industry’s challenges have been compounded recently by weak exchange rates caused by the uncertain political and economic climate.  In light of all these factors, it’s unlikely that Thomas Cook will be the last well known brand to face financial difficulties.

  • Dr Crispin Dale is Principal Lecturer Learning and Teaching in the School of Humanities. He lectures on the Tourism Management degree and has expertise in tourism developments and strategy.


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