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British tour company Thomas Cook, a 178-year-old institution has collapsed, halting almost all of its flights and hotel services and laying off its employees.

The company, that is credited with creating the package tour industry, has grounded its four airlines, and its 21,000 employees in 16 countries will lose their jobs.

Those who were in the midst of Thomas Cook vacations were left stranded, and reports stated that 50,000 were stranded in Greece, up to 30,000 in Spain’s Canary Islands, 21,000 in Turkey, and 15,000 in Cyprus.

Thomas Cook, which began in 1841 with a one-day train excursion in England, has been struggling financially for years due to competition from low-cost airlines and the ease of booking on the Internet.

Thomas Cook's airlines collapse.
Thomas Cook’s airlines are now defunct as well.

US-based travel advisors were reeling from the news, and many said the loss of Thomas Cook Airlines, German-based Condor, Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia, and Thomas Cook Airlines Balearics would make an impact on their business. All divisions of the company are now defunct.

“The collapse of Thomas Cook emphasizes the importance of having a trusted travel advisor,” says Susan Farewell, founder and owner of Farewell Travels LLC. “Someone you can reach out to and know he/she will be personally there for you, especially in an emergency such as this. To learn of something impacting your travel through the news or social media is devastating and unacceptable. Our clients know that whatever challenges may come, during the planning stages or while traveling, he/she can call/text/WhatsApp us and we will do whatever it takes to take care of them.”

ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby also spoke out about Thomas Cook ceasing operations. He issued a statement that reads:

It is a sad day in the travel community as we mourn the loss of Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm. With tens of thousands of lost jobs and hundreds of thousands of affected travelers, the impact is real and substantial.

It’s unfortunate that funding wasn’t secured in time to preserve the brand and avoid the disruption to the lives of employees and to travelers. The unique circumstances surrounding Brexit magnified Thomas Cook’s financial challenges in their home market.

The Thomas Cook situation is not indicative of the declining health of the overall travel advisor industry. Far from it. According to our independent recent research study, travel advisors report strong business demand, and growth for 2020.”

Kerby adds that, “in fact, over the past six years, our yearly consumer research study reports a higher number of consumers turning to travel advisors each year. The vast majority of our members, mostly women-owned small businesses, indicate that their businesses are thriving. At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau’s numbers for travel agency employment continue to grow, with an eight percent increase over five years.

Some in the media have been calling for the demise of the travel agencies since the dawn of the new millennium and the rise of online booking. If those prophecies were true, our travel advisors and our annual consumer research would be telling us a very different story.

The scale of the financial loss and disruption from Thomas Cook’s collapse should not be minimized. However, with ASTA members, we look confidently to the future.”

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