Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes at Thomas Cook. In 1841 it was an idea that the travel giant’s founder had regarding ‘the practicability of employing the great powers of railways and locomotion for the furtherance of this social reform’. According to the travel company’s website, ‘A former Baptist preacher, Thomas Cook was a religious man who believed that most Victorian social problems were related to alcohol and that the lives of working people would be greatly improved if they drank less and became better educated’. So it seemed a good idea (to him at least) to put them on trains and help them travel greater distances to attend temperance meetings.
We suspect that he would be secretly thrilled therefore to see that the company that still bears his name is continuing to innovate. Only this time, the innovation has taken the form of allowing holidaymakers the chance to ‘try before they buy’, ie, to get a better insight into the destination before they book.
The industry first this time around is a new ‘Thomas Cook Holiday 360 app’ which, together with a Google Cardboard headset, allows their customers to see what they would experience while on holiday but all from the comfort of their own home.
The service is, initially at least, restricted to looking at (previewing?) six Cook hotel and resorts in Egypt where the potential holidaymaker can discover the layouts in 360 degree high resolution, although according to the description of the app on the Apple App Store, “you will see a selection of our hotels, stroll on the beach, visit the pyramids, and take part in a range of outdoor activities in the land of the Pharaohs”.
If successful, we have no doubt that the company will extend the service to include other resorts and hotels.
The app can be used without the Google Cardboard headset, in which case the content is delivered as 360 degree array videos. The app is available to download from both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
What’s fascinating here is the degree to which technology continues to play such an important role in the travel industry. For Thomas Cook, the ‘new’ locomotives represented a technological breakthrough and the chance to “transport 500 passengers… in open carriages… the enormous distance of 12 miles and back for a shilling”.
No doubt he would have been proud of his future employee, Graham Cook (we assume no relation) the company’s head of digital, who now aspires to give customers a “fully immersive virtual reality experience back home during the consideration process”.
But where will it end? Will ‘fully immersive virtual reality experiences’ mean that we can save the money and go on holiday simply by staying at home with a headset? As a provider of travel insurance, we do hope not!