Thomas Cook’s appointment of Will Waggott has been hailed as an “important” move that will help in “beefing-up” its tour operator and getting “back to basics”.
Incoming chief of tour operating Waggott will start in the role on March 11, after his appointment was announced last week.
The former Tui Travel CFO and Travelopia chief executive will oversee Cook’s tour operating divisions in the UK, continental Europe and northern Europe, focusing primarily on the UK.
City analyst Andrew Monk, chief executive of VSA Capital, and a regular commentator on Cook for the last 25 years, said the appointment was shrewd.
“It’s very important,” he said. “Waggott is a real tour operator…so is [CEO] Peter Fankhauser, and so I am pleased he is now bringing in people who really understand what makes these businesses tick.
“Waggott started his career at Airtours and this will prove to be important, as one area Cook has really suffered is losing all its ‘Airtours’ passengers to Jet2.”
Monk continued: “I have in the past praised Frank Meysman [chairman] for what he has achieved at Thomas Cook, but I have also criticised some things he hasn’t done, mainly having enough real, hard-core tour operators on the board and in the business.
“Even today Thomas Cook has an absurdly high number of non-executives [eight] and virtually none has real tour operating experience. I’m sure they are all exceptionally talented in their own field, but tour operating is a unique industry that needs real understanding of the coal face.
“Let’s just hope we see more change like this from Thomas Cook, beefing up its tour operating skills and getting back to basics and not management consultant busy-bees.”
Looking to the future, Monk added: “We are still to see if Cook does sell its airline but that isn’t the ultimate issue. Jet2 has been brilliantly successful because it gives customers what they want at the right price. Tui has consistently done the same. Now Thomas Cook must.”
And he claimed Thomas Cook still held an ace card which rival operators don’t have, saying: “It has Fosun as a major shareholder and, it must be, as Carlsberg would say, probably one of the best shareholders in the world. Not only can Fosun support financially if required, but it will open-up the Chinese market to Thomas Cook and that market is going to be the biggest, fastest-growing and most profitable market in the world for the rest of my lifetime.”
Announcing Waggott’s appointment last week, Cook said he will be tasked with addressing the performance of the firm’s UK tour operator which it admitted faces “significant” challenges “in a competitive environment”.
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