Travellers are faced with a myriad of alternatives as to transportation, accommodation and other travel services. They must depend on travel agencies and others in the industry to guide them honestly and competently.” Travel agency business mostly functions in the private sector. The role of the private sector in organization of travel is therefore very crucial. In most countries, which are in any manner concerned with the tourist industry, the private sector plays a very important role.
The private sector’s role is not limited merely in selling the tourism product but often also in producing it as many individuals, companies and corporations are involved in promoting, developing and financing tourism. It is the travel agent who packages and processes all the various attraction of the country and sells these to the tourists. In addition, he also sells individual elements of the travel.
Thomas Cook and the Organization of Travel:
The organization and sale of travel, as it is known today, really began in July 1841. A book salesman-cum-Baptist preacher of Derbyshire was on his way to a temperance meeting in Leicester when he was inspired with “the idea of engaging a special train to carry the friends of temperance from Leicester to Loughborough in England and back to attend a quarterly delegate meeting. He thought that it was a sounder proposition to persuade a railway company to carry a trainload of passengers at a very cheap fare than to run the train at ‘Standard’ fares, but possibly only a quarter full.
Thomas Cook’s idea was put into operation with characteristic speed and efficiency. A few weeks’ later 570 travellers made the journey by the Midland Countries Railway at a specially reduced fare. This venture was soon followed by excursions to various other places, and in 1843, 3,000 school children were taken on a trip from Leicester to Derby in England. Thomas Cook’s real beginning as a ‘mass excursionist’ however was the Liverpool-Caernaryon trip of 1845. The tourists travelled by rail to Liverpool, from where they took a steamer to Caernaryon. The advertisement for the trip caused a sensation and the response was so overwhelming that a second trip had to be arranged.
Cook thought of every detail. He made a preliminary survey of accommodation and facilities and produced a Handbook of the Trip to Liverpool. The excursionist’s invasion of Scotland soon followed in 1846 and 1847. From 1848 to 1863 Cook conducted circular tours of Scotland, with 5,000 tourists a season. With the citadels of the landed aristocracy falling before him it was no wonder that a man of Cook’s humble origins saw ever and more enticing prospects opening before him: “I had become so thoroughly imbued with the Tourist spirit that I began to contemplate Foreign Trips, including the continent of Europe, the United States and the Eastern lands of the Bible.
The Grand Circular Tour:
By the mid-nineteenth century holidays away from home had become customary for a larger social group than ever before. Cook’s initiative and organizing genius provided the final impetus. In the winter of 1850-51 Cook was offered the opportunity of conducting excursion trains to the Great Exhibition of 1851. Altogether, Cook conducted 1, 65,000 people to and from the Crystal Place. In 1856 he succeeded in organizing his first ‘grand circular tour of the continent.’ The tour was so successful that it had to be repeated six weeks later.
Cook’s conquest of Europe began in 1862 when he made arrangement with Brighton and South Coast Railway for passenger traffic to the continent. His Paris excursions are the first true ‘package tours’ in that all the details of transport and accommodation were pre-arranged. In 1863 Cook visited Switzerland where his ideas were greeted with enthusiasm by hoteliers and railway proprietors. His next stop was Italy. Cook first made a personal survey of Turin, Milan, Florence and Genoa, to familiarise himself with their touristic attractions and facilities.
The 1860s also saw the introduction of Cook’s railway and hotel coupons. Cook personally examined the system by travelling through Italy to Vienna, down the Danube into Hungary and from there into Switzerland.
By the 1890s, 1,200 hotels throughout the world accepted his coupons. Starting in 1868 Cook arranged regular circular tours of Switzerland and Northern Italy. Thomas Cook and Son had established their first official London office in 1865. John Mason Cook now joined his father as a permanent partner and took charge of the London office. In the year 1880 John Mason Cook left for India and established offices in Bombay (Mumbai) and Calcutta (Kolkata) and formed the Eastern Princes Department. In 1887 this department arranged the visits of Indian princes to Queen Victoria’s jubilee celebrations. By the end of the century, taking advantage of nineteenth-century advances in transport technology Thomas Cook and Son had affected a revolution in tourism and tourism was now an industry.
Armed with Cook’s hotel and rail coupons, the tourist could demand uniform prices and standards of service and accommodation. This new standardization had distinct advantages. It meant comfort and convenience and less need for decision making on the part of the individual tourist. The tourist was less likely to experience discomfort or embarrassment. The management of the company passed on to John Mason Cook’s three sons in 1898.
At the time of John Cook’s death, the Cooks business included three main aspects of travel—selling tours, banking and shipping. Soon after the Second World War, the British government acquired the principal interest in the company. In 1972, the British government sold the company to Midland Bank Consortium.
Much has happened since that date. The business of the company has now expanded a great deal with about 1,000 offices around the world having about 14,000 employees.
The American Express Company:
By an interesting coincidence, the two largest worldwide travel agents, Thomas Cook and Son and the American Express Company, may be said to have had their origins in the same year 1841. While Thomas Cook persuaded a railway company to carry a train load of passengers at very cheap fares in the year, Henry Wells started his freight business in the USA at the same time. Henry Wells commenced his business initially as a shipper who later began the well-known company of America known as Wells- Fargo. The American Express Company, popularly known as Amex, is the World’s largest travel agency. It was an offshoot of Wells- Fargo Company.
Besides selling tours, the company deals in travelers’ cheques. Amex is a major participant in international currency transactions, buying and selling huge amount in foreign currency on each working day. The company has also introduced American Express credit cards. These cards are very popular all over the world and the holder can pay his hotel bills, buy an international air ticket and many more things from places where these are accepted.
Above Details Deserve Following Observation:
It is a chance coincidence that the two large world-wide travel agents, Thomas Cook & Sons Ltd. and the American Express Company, have their origins in the same year 1841. Thomas Cook invented the hotel coupon in 1867 and the American Express invented the travelers’ cheque in 1891.
The American Express Company, popularly Known as AMEXO, is the world’s second largest travel agency after Thomas Cook & Sons. The AMEXO has introduced the credit card system. These cards are very popular all over the world and the holder of the card can buy anything against the card without having to pay cash. The shops, hotels or airlines company accepting a credit card are immediately paid cash by the credit card company’s local office after deducting 3 per cent commission. The company then raises a bill against the credit card holder which has to be paid in ninety days.
Since the Indian rupee is not a convertible currency, or banks cannot issue international credit cards, but we too have rupee credit cards like the Diners Club card. Most Indian hotels and many shops dealing with foreign tourists accept international credit cards.