What Happened to Thomas Cook?

We look into the downfall of the 200-year old travel company #ThomasCook

Alan Clark, Chief User Experience Specialist at Space Between, investigated the downfall of Thomas Cook.

The British Tour Operator, established in 1841, yesterday announced its collapse. This included the loss of almost 20,000 jobs, almost half of which were in the UK alone. But how did such a trusted, recognised and well established business fail so spectacularly?

Our chief analyst looked into the beginnings of the end.

"With user behaviours changing dramatically over recent years in favour of self-service, digital consumerism, businesses that have failed to respond to the market, or failed to respond quickly enough, have been pre-destined to struggle at best, or fail at worst. This has been reflected in the recent collapse of Thomas Cook. We have seen this over a number of industries in recent months, from high street retailers, to insurance companies, and now travel and leisure. All over the past 12 months" reflects Alan.

In the case of Thomas Cook, the convenience of pre-packaged holidays was the original market appeal. This was key to their early success, and Thomas Cook gained a healthy profit from the application of this business model for many years out of their almost 200 year history.

However, the market for holiday bookings has changed rapidly over the last 5 years. The general public now want more bespoke holidays and experiences, but they don't want to pay a middle man for the privilege when they have the tools to do it themselves. This is where companies like Airbnb have gained an advantage. Their model has been to offer a wide range of experiences anywhere in the world, and it is provided on a simple interface that allows the consumer to act as their own travel agent. They are still able to upsell other leisure activities using this new and improved method, but the success and the simplicity is in allowing the user to do exactly what they want to do, and when and how they want to do it. Control is put into the hands of the user. Using the Airbnb example, users can book places to stay, separate to excursions or trips, and it lets them build the holiday they want down to the minute details. Any activities that are desired are just a few clicks away. This puts the customer in full control.

"This was a fundamental lack that caused a problem for Thomas Cook. With more choice immediately accessible online, users didn’t need to ask (or pay) an agent to arrange their holiday for them. In fact, they found they could get more choice by cutting out the middleman. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have physical stores - or that they can’t be run successfully even in this digital transition. What it does mean however, is that not responding to an evolving market will inevitably result in a turbulent times for a business looking to remain relevant in a digitally connected age" says Alan.

Concerned about future-proofing your user experience?

Drop Alan a message here to have a chat and get his thoughts on your strategy.

Alan Clark

[email protected]