Thomas Cook collapse ‘no surprise’ – but High Street travel agents are here to stay

The world’s oldest tour operator went into liquidation after failing to secure a £250million taxpayer bailout.

The collapse of the firm resulted in the loss of 9,000 jobs in the UK, and more than 20,000 worldwide, as all of its 600 high street branches closed their doors for good.

Around 150,000 holidaymakers had to be repatriated following the collapse.

But the boss of one of the South East’s leading travel companies has said the demise of the ‘iconic brand’ did not come as a shock.

Nick Marks, Managing Director of family-owned Baldwins Travel Group, which is headquartered in Tunbridge Wells, told the Times: “It came as no surprise in the end. It is such a shame, especially for all those staff in the UK and worldwide who have lost their jobs.

“They are an iconic brand, but they have been struggling for the last six to seven years. A few years ago somebody asset-stripped them and when that happens you are finished.

“From Baldwins’ point of view, we have a lot of tour operators to choose from and Thomas Cook  were not even in the top 30.”

He said that the collapse of the high street chain did not mean the traditional travel agent was losing the battle with online tour operators.

“You have to remember that 50 per cent of Thomas Cook’s business was online, but from our perspective, passenger numbers increase year on year and have done for the last 22 years since I have been in the industry.

“The reason for this is that we are there every step of the way. Thomas Cook is a good example. When they collapsed, we contacted our customers affected by that and started to help them get home. We help them with their compensation claims.”

Baldwins has been in the Marks family since 1991, when the family bought the original three shops in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Maidstone.

Since then, the Baldwins Group has expanded to eight shops across Kent and East Sussex, employing 72 people, and with an annual turnover of £40million.

This success Mr Marks puts down to their personal approach.

He said: “We have a saying, the holiday starts as soon as you come into the shop, because that is when people start getting excited about it.

“We can offer more than the internet can. We have all the experts and are here every step of the way. That’s why people come to us.”

He said the travel industry will continue to do well, as people are now opting for more bespoke holidays rather than the traditional package tour.

“Package holidays are still big, but there has been a big resurgence in adventure holidays, such as walking holidays or tennis camps – we have just sent a fair number of people to Japan for the Rugby World Cup.

“People are more adventurous with their holidays now.”

But he added: “Cruises remain really big at the moment still, and more people are choosing to go to the Caribbean now than before.

“It is a fantastic industry to be involved with at the moment,” he said.

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