The head of Thomas Cook UK declared the group’s intention to be the most-profitable travel firm in Britain yesterday, saying Cook is firmly back in the UK market.
Thomas Cook chief executive for the UK and Continental Europe Peter Fankhauser said: “Believe me we’re back.
He insisted: “We will stay the biggest travel retailer in the UK.”
Giving a presentation on the group’s turnaround in the UK and its summer 2014 programme, Fankhauser said: “In three years we want to be the most profitable brand in the UK and the most loved.”
Fankhauser cited recent Travel Weekly research, carried out by Explore, and argued: “This tells us 42% of adults expect to interact with Thomas Cook this year.
“That gives us confidence our brand strength is intact.”
He described the turnaround at the UK group which he said began at the top “like cleaning the stairs”.
“We start with a competitive structure. We are reducing our workforce from 15,500 to 13,000 – that is a lot and it has to be carefully done – and we will close 195 shops which are not profitable.
“These are massive steps, but it is not all about cost. It is about product.
“We have improved the product mix, introducing more all-inclusive and more exclusive product, more flexibility and more dynamic packaging.”
Fankhauser said: “We are going to significantly improve our flight offer with more flights, better connectivity and one group airline, including a codeshare with [Thomas Cook’s German carrier] Condor.”
The group will expand its exclusive international hotel brands Sentido and Sunprime and introduce a third, Smartline - “a good property for a good price”.
Fankhauser said: “We are tidying up the myth that Britons only like to holiday where there are Britons and Germans where there are Germans.”
He said research among 18,000 Thomas Cook clients in the group’s major markets found “perhaps 10% of clients where this is true - the rest like international products”.
Fankhauser said: “We will have a big focus on web capability in the UK.” But referring to the high street, he said: “We are going to stay the biggest travel retailer in the UK.”
He added: “We are going to do all this fast - most of the work on a new competitive structure is already done.”
Fankhauser would not comment on UK sales for this summer ahead of a group trading update, but he said: “We are totally happy and relaxed about this summer.”
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