Looking Back at the Story of Thomson Holidays

After the re-brand – Thomson has changed to TUI – we think now is a great time to re-visit the brand’s past and find out what made the package holiday giant the UK’s leading tour operator.

So, sit back and relax as we return to a time when holidays were as cheap as a meal out and resorts sat undeveloped with only a small choice of hotels.

How it all began

Thomson Airways first took off in 1962, when it flew 82 passengers from Manchester to Palma. But Thomson didn’t start selling package holidays until it merged with Skytours, Riviera, Luxitours, Gaytours and Britannia Airways.

As you can see the aircraft has changed drastically to the brand we know and love today.



In the 1960s there was a rise in tourism in the Mediterranean, in particular Spain. This came down to faster jets, which meant travellers were able to reach European hotspots in a matter of hours. This is when Thomson Holidays really made a name for themselves with their fantastically cheap getaways.

Holidays were also advertised on how British they were, with home-from-home dishes come dinner time and staff which spoke English.


In 1972 Thomson acquired Lunn Poly, the largest chain of travel agents in the UK. The name Lunn Poly was used up until 2004, but was later re-branded as Thomson Holidays in a bid to become one giant brand.

At this time, holidaymakers also started venturing a little further, with Thomson package holidays to Greece proving popular. And it’s safe to say the prices have changed drastically since the 1970s, with two weeks in the sun costing under £50 per person – less than what you’d pay for a night’s stay in the UK these days.



As the first European airline to operate the Boeing 767 in the 1980s, the airline grew and grew, and was later named Thomsonfly in 2005. At this time Instasun became a real contender in the travel market, until Thomson gained Horizon that was.

Thanks to new technology the booking process was made easier and hotels were built with more facilities like tennis courts and watersports. These amenities were seen as added luxuries back then, showing you how much things have changed from today’s multi-sports courts and first-class spas.

The bowler hat man advert proved extremely popular in the 1980s, and is still associated with the brand today.


By the time the 1990s came around, large tour operators including Thomson, Airtours and First Choice began investing in smaller names. In terms of the holidays people were going on, UK holidaymakers starting opting for more exotic destinations, which meant spots like the Caribbean and India saw a rise in popularity.

There was also more choice when it came to hotels, with apartment-style accommodation starting to appear. This meant more flexibility for travellers as hotel guests could now cook for themselves.


In 2000, Thomson was acquired by Preussag AG, a German mining company, and was renamed TUI AG in 2002. Then in 2007, Thomson merged with First Choice, making Thomson the biggest tour operator in the UK once again.

Ever since, we seem to have seen a rise in demand for more luxurious holidays, with more and more customers seeking elaborate celebrity-style escapes. Fancy facilities are all the rage now from infinity pools to gourmet restaurants and plush spas.


The future is TUI

TUI has finally waved goodbye to its much-loved ‘Thomson’ name in favour of TUI. The change hopes to attract more customers with more holiday choices, additional hotels and greater flexibility when it comes to flights, eventually becoming one global brand.

But don’t worry, you’ll still receive the same fantastic service and amazing priced holidays, click here for more information.