Premier Travel gives fresh opportunity to former Thomas Cook staff after launching branch in Sudbury
A team of staff, who lost their jobs following the collapse of an iconic travel brand, say they have renewed optimism after being employed by a new business in Sudbury.
Thomas Cook ceased trading in September after the UK’s oldest travel agency went into liquidation, which resulted in around 150,000 holidaymakers being left stranded abroad, with dozens of stores across the country forced to close before a takeover was eventually agreed.
Premier Travel, an independent holiday company, has employed all five staff from the former North Street branch to work at its new store in King Street, which marked its official opening on Monday.
Having worked at Thomas Cook for more than three decades, manager Diane Buck, who was on holiday in Portugal at the time of the collapse, said she was left shocked when the company announced the news.
“I was in disbelief,” she said. “It was like a bereavement – 32 years is a long time to work at one company.
“We have all worked in the town for so long, it’s part of us, it’s our life; when you’ve worked in travel, it’s difficult to come away from it.”
Mrs Buck said the team had been left humbled by the outpouring of public support from the community.
“We walked up to the old shop and so many people stopped and passed on their condolences,” she said.
“The support from the town has been amazing – it was overwhelming.”
While the team was coming to terms with their own predicament, they felt compassion for clients who had booked future holidays with the company.
“We felt so sorry for them,” she said. “Some of them are friends, rather than customers.”
Reflecting on the group’s resilience, Mrs Buck said their determination had been a testament to the team.
“We have a really good bond, we work well together and it’s really interesting because a lot of teams can disperse, but we’ve stayed together,” she said.
Welcoming the team, Paul Waters, director of Premier Travel, said: “We are so excited to be able to open a branch in Sudbury.
“The support from the local community so far has been overwhelming.
“The travel industry is extremely close-knit, so we were devastated to hear the news about Thomas Cook.
“Premier Travel wanted to help in any way we could so we fast-tracked interviews for staff who lost their jobs and the Sudbury team are enthusiastic, experienced and a great addition to our travel experts.”
John McMillan, president of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce praised the team’s re-employment.
“It’s always fantastic to see that happen,” he said. “It’s a terrible relief, both for the staff and the town.
“It’s only taken around two months to get a rescue arrangement in place and, in Sudbury, there aren’t many empty units - it’s only about four or five per cent.
He added: “There’s a tremendous community spirit in the town.”
To get in touch with the team at Premier Travel, call 01787 323230.
More by this authorPriya Kingsley-Adam