The summer holiday season is well and truly upon us, but 2021 looks set to be like no other. Record numbers are set to “stay-cation”, whilst the more traditional tour operator market continues another year of battles to try and lure folk overseas. Complicated testing regimes, the risk of quarantine at either end of the journey and the promise of lengthy queues when you finally get back to the United Kingdom at the end of any trip will be putting people off – although is this simply adding fuel to the fire for the so-called spike in “revenge travel”, which will see holidaymakers spending even more than usual – once they’re comfortable stepping out into the wider world once again?
We take a look at some of the travel companies you can invest in – along with their occasionally quirky back stories.
British Airways is now part of International Airlines Group, an assortment of carriers including Spain’s Iberia and Ireland’s Aer Lingus. BA however traces its roots back to August 1919 when an airline called Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited operated the world’s first international scheduled flight, which ran from Hounslow Heath to Paris. There was one paying passenger onboard, along with consignments of clotted cream and grouse!
Whilst not having quite the legacy of British Airways, Jet2, the low cost airline and package holiday company, still traces its roots back 50 years. Originally shipping freight on the planes of others under the name Carpenter Air Services, the first plane was bought in 1978 and the company went through various name changes before branding as Dart Group in 1991 and joining London’s AIM stock market in 2005. Following the sale of its distribution and logistics (cargo) business, the company started wholly operating under its current name and is now the UK’s 3rd largest airline.
TUI is a giant in the world of tour operators and has a history that dates back to the 1950’s. Many in the UK may know it better as Thomson Holidays, a company which is reported to have been the first ever business-to-business user of online shopping back in 1981! Listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1998, it only took two years for Thomson to be bought by Germany’s TUI, who have also picked up other long established mass market holiday brands including First Choice over the years.
Expedia started back in 1996 as a division of Microsoft, was listed as a stand alone company in 1999 and over the last quarter of a century has built itself into a travel booking powerhouse. However, the company’s Vrbo arm which looks after villa rentals recently drew some unwanted attention in the media after a holidaymaker found a property in Cornwall advertised for more than £10,000 a night! Vrbo was quick to point out they were merely a matching service – the property has since been removed.
Thomas Cook is arguably the grand-daddy of tour operators, tracing its history back to 1841. Mr Cook was a Leicester-based cabinet maker, whose first foray into organised tours was chartering a train to take temperance supporters to a meeting 12 miles away. (Cook believed that alcohol was to blame for society’s problems so we’re not quite sure what he would make of the modern package holiday.) The company was considered such a part of the British fabric that facing bankruptcy after the Second World War it was nationalised and was part of British Rail until 1972. As the general public became more adventurous, the company’s fortunes soared but failure to adapt to a changing market resulted in its demise in 2019. The brand – which clearly still carries weight – was bought for £11m by China’s Fosun Group.
- British Airways 1 – first scheduled flight carried 1 passenger
- Jet2 1978 – bought their first plane
- TUI 21 – bought Thomson Holidays 21 years ago
- Expedia £71,000 – tried to rent a house out in Cornwall for £71k a week
- Thomas Cook 12 – Number of passengers on their first tour.