Cox & Kings is the longest established travel company in the world, having marked its 260th anniversary in 2018.
The company's history stretches back to 25 May 1758 when Richard Cox was appointed as regimental agent to the Foot Guards by his mentor, Lord Ligonier, the commander-in-chief of His Majesty's Armed Forces. The actual moment of appointment is captured in the allegorical scene shown in the painting above by the well-known military painter David Morier, in which Cox is deliberately positioned as Ligonier’s ‘right hand man’.
The role of agent included the arrangement of payment of officers and men, the provision of clothing, acting as a go-between for the buying and selling of officers’ commissions, and acting upon any special requests from the regimental adjutant.
Regimental agents did not have a very good reputation before Cox, but such was his honesty, reliability and organisational ability that he made it a respectable business and Cox & Co soon became the agent for the majority of British regiments. By the end of the 18th century the company served 14 cavalry, 64 infantry and 17 militia regiments. The company’s business grew hand in hand with the British empire, becoming involved in banking and shipping in addition to its other agency activities.
Henry S King & Co, a rival bank and shipping agency, was started by Henry Samuel King in 1868 and subsequently run for more than 45 years by his son, Henry Seymour King, an MP and renowned mountaineer. The company had particularly strong links with India. After the first world war, the two companies merged as Cox’s & King’s and moved into grand premises on Pall Mall (now the site of the Sofitel St James Hotel). In 1923, the business was sold to Lloyds Bank and, while the banking arm stayed with Lloyds (becoming the Cox & Kings branch, as it is still known), the shipping agency became a separate company, running tours and organising the passage of people and their belongings around the world, notably to Egypt, India and south Asia.
In 1970, Cox & Kings Agency was bought by Grindlays Bank as part of a deal with the then Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, to develop tourism into the country; and so the modern history of the company began.
In 1986 our current Chief Executive, Peter Kerkar, took over the company which was then part owned by the Indian Taj Group of hotels, of which his father was the chairman. In his early years Peter set about diversifying the company, which had been very much an India specialist up to that point, to build similar expertise in areas such as Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, the Far East and Europe.
The company was a hive of innovation as pioneers of newspaper readers offers and environmental holidays, as well as bold initiatives such as developing the Bolshoi Express train in Russia. In the late 1990s Cox & Kings started to develop holidays for the Indian outbound market and went on to become the number 1 travel company in India. This growth led to a flotation on the Mumbai stock exchange in 2009, which subsequently facilitated the acquisition of the Holidaybreak group of companies, including brands such as education specialists PGL and NST, as well as Meininger Hotels. In 2015 Cox & Kings acquired the UK-based online hotel booking website Laterooms.com.
Today, Cox & Kings has built on the tradition of high quality service and attention to detail established by Richard Cox more than 260 years ago and it now provides travel arrangements of the highest calibre in many of the most culturally and naturally fascinating parts of the world. The company has extended its expertise to cover Africa, Australasia, the Caribbean, Europe, the Far East, the Indian Ocean, the Indian Subcontinent, Latin America, the Middle East and Canada.
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