Last week on the 23rd September 2019 saw the end of travel era of a company with 178 years of history in the industry, with the very sad news that Thomas Cook went into compulsory liquidation.
With a loss of over 22000 jobs, my heart goes out to all those affected.
Thomas Cook will always have a place in my heart as this is where I and many others started their travel career.
When I was 15 years old in 1990, I had to do a weeks work experience and to be honest I had no clue what I wanted to do. A family friend worked part-time at Thomas Cook and suggested I try that as work experience. So with the agreement of her manager and the school, Thomas Cook Woolwich High Street had me for a week. Making teas and coffees, unpacking brochures and being a general goffer for the girls in store. I loved it and loved how passionate the team was about selling holidays. I obviously did OK as I was offered a Saturday job within a few days of being there and that’s where it all began for me.
I was given a uniform and started my Saturday job doing the same as before with brochures and making hot drinks, but when it was quiet I got the opportunity to sit and learn all about the industry and how to book a holiday. The manager at the time noticed how well I picked things up and when they were short-staffed, I was put on the front line to help customers. I used to work all school holidays and even bunk school to go to work, the manager would call in the morning if someone had called in sick to see if I could help out, so off to school I would go for morning register and then jump on the bus and change my school uniform to Thomas Cooks… I didn’t care as I loved my job and was earning money.
After a year in 6th form, a full-time position became available at Thomas Cook Peckham branch. I did my last 6th form exam on Tuesday and started full-time work at Peckham Branch the next day on Wednesday aged 17. I was a bit envious of some of my friends as I didn’t have a full summer off to relax after school finishing, but I had booked and paid for my own holiday to Tenerife with some friends and I was so proud that I had done that all by myself.
Thomas Cook gave me some great opportunities over the 6 years I was with them. Back in the day when we used to get great perks for travel, I had some great trips and had even been to India with work before I turned 18. After a few years on the holiday side, I then moved over to Foreign Exchange, just so I had another notch under my belt. It then meant I could flick between selling holidays or currency.
I worked all over South London for Thomas Cook starting at Woolwich, then moved full time to Peckham, I had a stint in Eltham and used to cover other shops when need too like Lewisham, then I moved into central London working in Oxford Street and Covent Garden having a ball in my late teens and making great friends. Even though Thomas Cook at the time was a great company I needed to move on and after I turned 21 it was time for me to spread my wings and thats when I left Thomas Cook and moved to American Express and started a long career in corporate travel.
I will always be grateful to Thomas Cook for the start that I had and when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, they showed me a world of opportunity and that was Travel. So thank you for the memories, the life long friends I have made along the way and giving me the passion for the job I love.
Thomas Cook 1871-2019.