The new chief of tour operating for Thomas Cook says he will “make the right decisions for the business” but admitted that “some could be painful”.
Speaking the day before he started his new role on Monday, Will Waggott said: “Thomas Cook is arguably the biggest holiday brand in the world. It has some challenges and I am really excited to try and sort them out.”
But he insisted Cook’s problems were solvable and that he was unfazed by the challenge.
“It’s not a crisis,” Waggott said. “When I left Airtours, things were very challenging. I have spent my whole career sorting issues out, so I have more than 25 years’ experience of this.
“You’ve just got to make the right decisions for the business. Some of these will be painful, some will be fun, but they will be the right thing to do for the company.
“I suspect the team at Thomas Cook have had a pretty tough few years, so hopefully I can come in and we can work hard to make things better. There will be tough times; it won’t always be fun.”
Waggott maintained that “the whole industry is having a tough time at the moment”, pointing to Tui’s recent profit warning. The operator revised its underlying forecast for the year to September 2019, saying profits would no longer be up on its record 12 months last year.
Commenting on Thomas Cook, Waggott said: “The debt isn’t ideal. It makes things more difficult.”
Asked what the priorities would be, he said: “I need to spend the first couple of months with everybody and find out what they think we need to do. I need to learn the issues and work out what we can do differently.
“I’m not sure they are doing anything massively wrong. The whole of the UK industry is suffering from overcapacity, which puts pressure on margins. Everyone is struggling.”
Waggott confirmed Cook’s retail network would be included in his review of the UK business, but when reminded the company had some 600 branches, he said: “Excellent.”
He said he would inevitably be involved in the proposed sale of Thomas Cook Airlines. “As the tour operator, we will need a contract to continue our flying,” he said.
Asked if joining two weeks before the UK is due to leave the EU made things even harder, Waggott said: “We could all do without it. Uncertainty in any business is never great.
“But all those stories about taking a holiday after April are utterly ridiculous. Flights are going to keep going. The travel industry is going to carry on.”
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