The Airtours brand is set for a revival after Thomas Cook confirmed former Tui UK managing director Chris Mottershead as its new UK commercial director last week.
Mottershead also ran Airtours in the 1990s and declared it “a key brand” for Cook this week, telling Travel Weekly: “Airtours is an obvious opportunity. We need to give more weight to Airtours holidays in brochures.”
He joined Thomas Cook as business development director in April after five years running Tui Russia and said: “By taking a role in April, I was able to get under the skin of the business without taking full responsibility.
"Now I can hit the ground running. I had a look at where we can grow and how we can improve.”
Asked if Airtours had been ‘a bit forgotten’, he said: “I believe so. It’s a key brand in the portfolio. But we need to have a clear proposition for Airtours customers – and that is still in development.”
Mottershead described Airtours’ holidays as “value-for-money, mainstream midmarket [and] more affordable”. Yet he added: “Airtours comes very much at the heart of Thomas Cook.”
Looking at Cook more broadly, he said: “The next step is the programme – where we fly to and from. There are opportunities in the western Mediterranean and Canaries. We need greater capacity in some destinations. We don’t have coverage from certain airports and we should. The western Mediterranean has seen absolute growth in demand.”
Mottershead insisted Cook is over its problems and ready to “put its head above water”, saying: “We have a great brand and great recognition. We have a very experienced team. This is a business in control.”
He added: “The modernisation of the business excites me. Ten years ago, travel had become all about mergers. Now the mainstream travel companies have found their position and Thomas Cook has a marvellous opportunity.”
Mottershead dismissed the idea that Cook had been left behind by Tui, saying: “There are differences in approach, but I wouldn’t say we lag. We’re moving fast, but I don’t think we’re playing catch-up. The brand is strong and the holidays speak for themselves.”
Cook announced the departure of chief digital officer Marco Ryan last week, but Mottershead insisted there was no move away from the “high-tech, hightouch” strategy of former head Harriet Green, who departed last November.
“There is no shift in direction,” he said. “We’re technology driven, with omni-channel distribution.” He added that independent agents remain “key partners”.
At a glance
• Thomas Cook appoints Chris Mottershead as commercial director. Mottershead joined Cook in early April.
• He ran Tui UK from late 2001 to 2004, then headed the Travelzest group until 2009, when he took over First Choice Canada. He held senior positions at Airtours between 1993 and 2001.
• Mottershead said this week: “There is an opportunity to give Airtours more weight.”
• He starts the new role on Monday, reporting to UK managing director Salman Syed.
• Former product and yield director Stefanie Berk becomes managing director for central and eastern Europe.
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