Tourism | Chinese-owned Thomas Cook reborn as online travel agent

Thomas Cook relaunched yesterday as an online travel firm that will initially sell holidays to destinations on the U.K. government’s safe travel corridor list.
The company, bought by China’s Fosun Group for 11 million pounds ($14 million) after collapsing last year, has a new website through which customers can design their trips with add-ons including car rental and travel insurance, according to a statement.
“We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic,” U.K. Chief Executive Officer Alan French said in the statement. “We and our Fosun backers are taking the long view.”
The collapse of Thomas Cook, a travel brand that dates back to the 1840s, led to 9,000 job losses in the U.K. and left 150,000 tourists stranded overseas. The revamped company has created a trust to protect payments and will only receive customers’ money once they return from vacation. Holidaymakers won’t be charged fees to rearrange their trips if government rules change, French said.
“There’s no denying that this will be a challenge for the travel brand. Its name and recent history won’t help,” said Peter Knapp, chairman of branding consultancy Landor Associates. “But if it is able to confront this opportunity, learn the lessons from its past and tap into its heritage and pedigree in holiday destinations, it may stand a fighting chance.”
Thomas Cook’s brand and online assets were acquired in November by Fosun, owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang. The Shanghai-based group’s other assets include Club Med SAS and English Premier League soccer club Wolverhampton Wanderers. Fosun operates various businesses under listed units Fosun Tourism Group, Fosun International Ltd. and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co.
Fosun Tourism rose 4.8% in Hong Kong yesterday, its biggest gain since Aug. 13. The stock has fallen 25% since Nov. 1, when the deal to acquire Thomas Cook acquisition was reached.  Will Davies, Bloomberg

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