Sept. 23, 2019 (GIN) – Sunbathers snoozing away the last days of summer awoke to a cold water bath of reality when news of the bankruptcy filing by the famed Thomas Cook travel group hit the airwaves, leaving many with no way home.
With its profits decimated by online travel services such as Expedia, Priceline and Hotel.com, the 178-year old Cook agency had struggled to stay afloat.
The shockwave hit thousands of tourists – many holed up at famed African vacation spots that now faced unpaid bills and a struggle to rebuild their lucrative tourist trade.
Collapse of the iconic travel operator could have been averted with a $250 million infusion from private investors – but after considerable effort the rescue deal flopped.
Most of the tourists are from the UK estimated at 150,000, followed by Germany with about 140,000 holidaymakers.
The collapse could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs directly dependent on Thomas Cook package deals.
Tunisia’s tourism minister, René Trabelsi, said hotels were owed about $70,000,000 from Thomas Cook for stays in July and August. “I will have a meeting on Tuesday with the British embassy in Tunisia and the hotel owners to see how debt could be redeemed,” he said.
Gary Seale, a guest at the Orangers Hotel in Hammamet, Tunisia, posted on Facebook that “security have refused to let us out of the hotel and barricaded us in”. He later posted that he had reached the airport and flew home on Sunday.
One of the surviving online ads for Cook’s Kenya Tour Packages lists Kenyan Safaris, Kenyan Dhamakas, Kenyan Discovery and Grand Bargain South Africa with Kenya. A group tour is listed with the unfortunate choice of name: Kenyan Safari with Tanzanian Surprise.
Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt were part of Thomas Cook’s top travel destinations.
Last year, Thomas Cook announced that its travel to Egypt had increased by 40 percent year-on-year, with Marsa Alam and Hurghada as the top destinations.
Thousands of Thomas Cook passengers are being brought home in what the UK Civil Aviation Authority has called “the UK’s largest ever peacetime repatriation”, after the company failed to secure a last-ditch rescue deal in meetings with shareholders and creditors on Sunday.