Travel and tourism icon Thomas Cook celebrates is 175 year old - Get updated on what's happening in tourism!

Travel and tourism icon Thomas Cook celebrates is 175 year old
The company which all but invented the modern tourism and holiday industry has passed some memorable milestones over the years
Travel and tourism icon Thomas Cook celebrates is 175 year old

Thomas Cook Anniversary, Travel ProdThe company pioneered high street travel agents

Passengers on Thomas Cook’s inaugural trip, 175 years ago on Tuesday, didn’t travel first class... and they certainly travel thirst class either!

That small step on the road to becoming a global holiday giant saw Cook – a Baptist minister in Market Harborough, Leics, who ­developed an eye for a business opportunity – host 500 paying people on a 12-mile trip by train from Leicester to Loughborough for a Temperance meeting.

That’s about as far as you can get from jetting off on an all-inclusive five-star holiday to the sun in 2016!

By 1845 Cook was diversifying, with railway excursions to Liverpool from Leicester, Nottingham and Derby.

A decade later and he was leading overseas trips for the first time. Two groups travelled from Harwich to Paris via Antwerp, Brussels, Cologne, Heidelberg and Strasbourg.

Thomas Cook Anniversary, Travel ProdBaptist temperance minister Thomas Cook pioneered the modern travel industry

More innovation followed in 1865, with the arrival of the first high street travel agent in Fleet Street, London.

Over the next 14 years, Thomas Cook worked in partnership with his son, John Mason Cook, who took over in 1879 and was himself succeeded by his three sons on his death in 1899. Cook Snr had passed away in 1892.

The brothers started to cater for the travelling elite, ­introducing winter sports holidays, tours by motor car and later by the first commercial aeroplanes.

In 1928 the firm was sold overseas, but returned to British hands in the mid-1940s and benefited from the post-war package holiday boom of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Today, now merged with My Travel Group and the Co-operative Travel Group, Thomas Cook , with a new Sunny Heart logo, is one of the world’s top leisure travel groups.

It has sales of £7.8billion and employs 22,000 people in 15 countries.

Thomas Cook's 175 years in numbers

Thomas Cook Anniversary, Travel ProdThomas Cook started with temperance train trips

1 - cost in shillings of that first teetotal trip on July 5, 1841 (5p in today’s money, but equivalent to around £4.70).

32 - aircraft in the Thomas Cook Airlines fleet.

50 – years that Thomas Cook owns and operates a funicular railway at the top of Mount Vesuvius, near Naples, Italy.

222 – days on the first round-the-world tour which started in September, 1872. It was personally escorted by Cook, covers 29,000 miles and costs around £300 (equivalent to £30,600 today). The group travel via North America, Japan, China, Singapore, India, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France.

22,000 - employees across the business today, and operates from 15 countries.

1.1 million - muffins from celebrity chef James Martin are consumed on Thomas Cook Airlines each year.

6.7million - passengers fly with Thomas Cook Airlines each year

Key dates

Thomas Cook Anniversary, Travel Prod

1841 - Baptist temperance preacher Thomas Cook charters Leicestershire train.


1865 - a week in a Paris hotel by rail, ferry and staying on full board hotel costs £3 (equivalent to £340 today)

1873 - Cook’s Continental Time Tables & Tourist’s Handbook is published for the first time.

1874 - Cook’s Circular Note, an early form of the traveller’s cheque, is launched in New York.

1896 – is named official passenger agent for the first modern Olympics in Athens

1902 - telephone sales are introduced

1919 – becomes the first travel agent to offer pleasure trips by air

1965 - profits exceed £1million for the first time

1984 - launch of the famous advertising slogan ‘Don’t Just Book It, Thomas Cook It!

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