Thomas Cook hails response after 22,000 people in resorts hit by Hurricane Irma

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Travel giant Thomas Cook has said it had dealt with an "operationally challenging" past month as it provided support and took care of 22,000 of its customers in destinations impacted by devastating Hurricane Irma.

The group said it was forced to evacuate thousands of customers in The Cayos in Cuba, which were the group's worst hit resorts, while it also had 10,000 customers in Florida and 4,500 in the Dominican Republic.

Around 15,500 of those customers affected were from the UK, it said.

Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook, praised the speed of the group's response in helping affected customers, with the group having sent out a 66-strong special assistance team across Cuba and Orlando in Florida to provide support.

It is also offering alternative destinations to customers with bookings to resorts badly damaged by recent hurricanes, with those travelling to Cayo Coco or Cayo Guillermo in Cuba being offered free cancellation or amendments until the end of November.

Mr Fankhauser said: "The last month has been operationally challenging as our teams took care of the thousands of customers in the Caribbean and Florida impacted by Hurricane Irma.

"I am proud of how fast we acted in the wake of Irma to support our customers, and offer them alternative destinations for their winter sun."

Details of its response to the hurricane came as it gave a trading update confirming that UK bookings rose 8% over the summer despite a highly competitive market in Spain - its biggest destination.

Total summer 2017 bookings were 11% higher across the group.

Its winter programme is 37% sold, with bookings 5% higher across the UK and prices up 3%.

The group added that strong demand in the UK and Northern Europe was helping drive a solid start to summer 2018.

Thomas Cook also announced another strategic partnership, with Swiss-based hotel property development company LMEY Investments, which has seen the group buy a 42% stake in Aldiana - a premium club and activity-focused tour operator and hotel management company based in Germany.

It follows the tie-up with Expedia earlier this month, which saw the US-based group become Thomas Cook's preferred provider of hotels for city and domestic holidays.