By Steve Dunne, executive chairman of travel marketing consultancy Brighter Group
I was privileged enough to sit in the audience of last week’s Travel Weekly Business Briefing to hear Thomas Cook chief executive, Harriet Green, being interviewed.
It was an enlightening morning and, for me, strangely inspirational.
There’s no doubt about it; one can fully understand why Thomas Cook is back on the road to recovery with Harriet at the helm.
She is tough, dynamic, realistic and clear sighted. And, while there is still a long way to go (as Harriet said herself) one can only imagine how formidable the brand will be once it's fully fit.
During the course of the interview Harriet was questioned on her background, the job at hand at Cooks and a wide array of other topics including her role on David Cameron’s business advisory group
And, for me, a theme began to emerge. One that made me wonder if we desperately need more new blood, like Harriet, coming into the sector from other industries.
From explaining her staff strategy (which was to keep a third of the staff, promote a third from within and introduce a third from outside the industry) to her observation that the travel industry, from a distribution viewpoint, was a decade behind other industries, it was clear to see - the travel industry might benefit from new blood.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a statistic that tells us how many people in the travel industry have always worked within it.
It may not even exist. But if it does I can only imagine it will be high – very high. Most travel industry people I know have always worked in the industry, for as long as they can remember.
And that may be the issue. Why is travel, as an industry, not loved or highly regarded, by the City?
Why do successive governments reduce the industry to a bit player in a department that covers media, sports and Uncle Tom Cobley and all?
Why does the government not listen with conviction to the industry on APD, airport capacity and visa restrictions?
At one point in the interview Harriet was asked about political unrest in major holiday destinations.
Did she think this made life exceptionally difficult for the industry; one other sectors don’t get hit with?
I’ll never forget the look on her face at the question or, indeed, her answer: “I do think this issue of exogenous events is slightly overdone” she replied.
To my mind it’s obvious.
If the travel sector could attract a few more Harriet Greens it would be taken more seriously by the city; the government would see the sector not as a lightweight, moaning industry, but a major generator of foreign currency, taxes and employment.
So my view is this (unpopular as it may be): recruitment agencies get busy, we need more outside blood please.
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