History of Travel Agent

First Travel Agent

In 1841, Thomas Cook began running a special excursion train from Leicester to Loughborough in England, a trip of 12 miles. On July 5th Cook’s train carried 570 passengers at a round trip price of 1 shilling per passenger. This is believed to be the first publicly advertised excursion train. Thus Cook can rightfully be recognized as the first rail excursion agent; his pioneering efforts were eventually copied widely in all parts of the world. Cook’s company grew rapidly, providing escorted tours to Continent and later to the United States and around the World. He started a full time excursion agency in 1845. The railway company agreed to give him 5% commission, which, however, was not enough to make the business worthwhile. Cook had, therefore, to diversify his business in other directions and he became the first tour operator in this world.

Cook started making his tours interesting. In 1845, he arranged the first all-inclusive tour from Leicester to Liverpool. For the purpose of his tour, he invented hotel coupons, which are now a common phenomenon in travel agency business all over the world. In 1846, he took 350 people by train and steamship on a tour of Scotland. Cook also published the first guidebook on this tour. He later moved to London. In 1851, over 1, 50,000 people used Cook’s Lodging and Transportation services to go to London for the world’s first Exposition at Crystal Palace. This was followed by a number of grand circular tours of Europe including visits to different countries. In 1882, Cook started his first Around-the-World tour. The tour took 220 days. It inspired Jules Verne to write his famous book Around the World in Eighty Days.

Cook’s tours went everywhere- to Egypt, to see the Pyramids, to the Holy Land for a Pilgrimage. Cook was hired by the British Government to transport 18,000 men up to Nile to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum. In the late seventies of the nineteenth century, Cook arranged a deluxe tour to India with P&O Steamship line; the tourists saw Bombay and Kashmir. In 1847, he provided another service, which was the beginning of the present day traveler’s cheques. These coupons were called the “circular notes” and were valid at Banks, Hotels, Restaurants and Shops. Later these circular notes came to be known as “traveler’s cheques” and were adopted by the American Express Company. The traveler’s cheques have been a unique phenomenon, which greatly helped the development of tourism in the world. It is insured against loss.

At the later stage, Cook’s son John Cook inherited his father business and continued to provide the service his father did. They realized that a bulk use of transport and accommodations could reduce the cost of travel and thus increase the demand. They provided the personalized services. The Cooks tour throughout the Second half of the nineteenth century was quality tours escorted by a tour leader.

In 1898, the management of the firm passed on to John’s three sons. At the time of his death, the Cook’s business included three major aspects of travel

– selling tours, banking and shipping. The Cook’s tour became sophisticated and more and more easy for travelers. The travelers were met on arrival by car. Cooks agents assisted the travelers through all formalities and to arrange their sightseeing tours. Most of the tours were group tours. The era of all-inclusive tours had started. After the World War II, the British Government acquired

principal interest in Thomas Cook & Sons. The British Government determined the policy of this company. In 1977, the British Government sold Thomas Cook & Sons to Midland Bank Consortium for £ 858.8 million. The company today has over 1,000 offices around the world in 145 countries. The largest of its kind, Thomas Cook & Sons have now business interest in several fields.

Travel Business In America

The American Express Company may be said to have its origin in the same year – 1841 in America. While Thomas Cook hired his first train that year, Henry Wells started his freight business in USA at the same time. Thomas Cook started as, what we now call as a tour operator, and Henry Wells as a shipper who later began the well-known company of America – Wells Fargo. The American Express Company (AMEXO) is the world’s second largest travel agency. It was an offshoot of Wells Fargo Company of Pony Express and Wild West Frame. By 1968, it diversified to become a travel and financial conglomerate. It also provides service to life insurance and property insurance. American Express Company is a major participant in international currency transactions buying and selling about 200 million dollars in foreign currency on each working day. Their traveler’s cheques business is very profitable.

The company has also introduced American Express Credit Cards, which are perhaps the most popular credit cards in the world. A holder of such credit cards can go to any part of the world and pay his/her hotel bills, eat food in restaurants, buy an international air ticket or anything else at place where American Express Cards are recognized. The American Express today is the world’s largest travel outfit – 2,227 offices in 120 countries.

Today, Travel Agencies have been recognised as a vital component of travel and tourism and have become an integral part of travel and tourism industry at global. They Account for more than 90% of international and 70% of domestic tourist traffic. Further, more than 60% of all travel agency revenues are derived from the business travel. Most travel agencies sell both commercial and leisure travel but there is many travel agencies which only specialize in one sector or the other.

The operation of each travel agency is based on the scope of its activities and organisational size. In this chapter we will discuss the functions of a large scale travel’ agency that performs all types of activities such as retail TA, whole selling and tour operations etc. The main functions of a large scale travel agency.