Thomas Cook has recovered its UK market share despite a plunge in bookings after it sought extended credit in November and has fewer summer holidays left to sell than a year ago.
Group UK chief commercial officer Neil Morris hailed the turnaround at Thomas Cook when he appeared at an industry breakfast briefing on Thursday.
Morris said: “Our left-to-sell position is better at this time than a year ago and for a large part of February we were up year on year. We have seen a recovery in market share.”
He said: “We have taken capacity out, so we are down 13% in a market that is down 9%. What we have to do is trade with better margins.
“May is tough, but June margins are very healthy. I’m fairly confident prices will hold up.”
Morris said the company had raised margins by centralising yield management on mainstream sales, which had previously varied by destination.
He said: “I don’t know why it differed by destination, but it did.” He added: “We have also stopped competing with our own website.”
Morris joined Thomas Cook last October, a month before the company’s public admission that it required a credit extension to get through the winter.
He said: “I was aware of some of the issues. Most companies talk to their banks every day, but don’t do it in the spotlight. We had a very public issue on banking facilities and it affected bookings for a while. There were enough challenges without it.”
But he insisted: “There was never a reason not to book with Thomas Cook.”
Morris added: “I think it’s recognised we have stabilised in the market. We are trading pretty much where we need to be.
“The market is down 9% and it will finish at 9% down. There are two dominant players and whatever those two do is where the market will end up.”
Abta chairman John McEwan, chief executive of Advantage Travel Centres, agreed: “The mainstream market is down around 9% on numbers and 4%-5% on revenue. Some of that is deliberate because people have taken out capacity. But some sectors – specialist tour operators and high-end cruise – are buoyant.”
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