THE world’s oldest travel firm Thomas Cook collapsed on Monday, stranding more than 600,000 holidaymakers around the world.
As the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history gets underway, we look at why the operator failed.
Why has Thomas Cook collapsed?
Thomas Cook has confirmed that all the UK companies in its group have ceased trading, including Thomas Cook Airlines.
All holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating. Every Thomas Cook retail shops has also closed.
Cabinetmaker and former Baptist preacher Thomas Cook founded the business in 1841 in Leicestershire, for local excursions.
He was hoping to offer an alternative source of entertainment to drinking, and initially offered a 12-mile trip from Leicester to Loughborough.
But, 178 years later, the British tour operator has fallen victim to multiple setbacks including changing travel habits and the rise of online booking sites, says news agency the Associated Press.
It was also hit by the sinking pound and unusually hot weather which encouraged fewer Northern Europeans to travel, it adds.
And a £1.6 billion debt pile made it less able to react to change.
Analysts said Thomas Cook has been overtaken by online services like Airbnb and internet travel companies.
“The environment in which Thomas Cook operated radically changed with the advent of budget air travel, online travel services and easy access to private accommodation through online platforms like Airbnb,” says Professor John Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University.
“The merger with Airtours and MyTravel Group left Thomas Cook with a major debt burden that became harder and harder to service.
“Combined with increased competition and consumer uncertainty, weaker sterling as a result of Brexit and increasingly nervous lending organisations, it left limited possibilities for an alternative outcome.”