Salman Syed to leave Thomas Cook

Salman Syed to leave Thomas Cook

Former Tui UK & Ireland boss Chris Mottershead, who joined Thomas Cook in April, is to take over from Salman Syed as Thomas Cook UK managing director on October 1.

Mottershead (pictured, right) initially joined Cook in April as business development director but was quickly elevated to commercial director at the end of July.

His enhanced role saw Mottershead assuming responsibility for Thomas Cook’s product, commercial and yield teams, following the promotion of product and yield director Stefanie Berk to managing director central and eastern Europe, based in Germany.

Cook said Mottershead will lead the drive to achieving profitable growth by enhancing the customer experience, building product differentiation and overseeing the implementation of a new operating model known as NUMO.

Announcing the appointment, Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook Group chief executive, said: “Next year marks the 175th anniversary of our company, and Chris is the ideal person to lead the UK business into the next chapter in its history. 

"He enjoys an excellent reputation, with a well-proven vision of meeting the needs of customers in an omni-channel, technology-driven world. 

"His considerable experience within the industry will contribute significantly to the team’s effectiveness and focus, and I am confident that the UK business performance will go from strength to strength under his stewardship."

Fankhauser added: “In addition to congratulating Chris on his appointment, I’d like to thank Salman for his contribution to Thomas Cook UK & Ireland over the last 18 months.

“He has led the business through a challenging period with a focus on delivering operational effectiveness, establishing a clear strategic framework and building the management and leadership team. We wish him every success for the future.”

Mottershead said: “I am delighted to have been entrusted with helping to build and shape the future of the UK business at such an important time in its history. 

"The company has a great heritage and I feel proud and privileged to have been given the opportunity to help further establish Thomas Cook as the preferred choice for the UK travel consumer.”

Mottershead has reported in to Syed in both his business development and commercial roles, but will now take over as managing director.

Syed (pictured, left) will leave Thomas Cook on October 31 'to pursue external opportunities', the operator confirmed.

He was appointed in September 2014 by former Thomas Cook chief executive, Harriet Green, who said at the time that he would “spearhead Thomas Cook’s efforts to further improve performance”.

Syed came from outside the travel industry and had previously spent five years at electronics distributor Premier Farnell where Green was chief executive before she joined Cook.

Mottershead, by contrast, has had a long and distinguished career in the industry dating back to 1993.

His appointment at Cook meant he has now worked for all of the original ‘Big Four’ vertically-integrated operators: Airtours, Tui, First Choice (which he worked for in Canada) and Thomas Cook.

Prior to joining Thomas Cook, Mottershead had been working for Tui in Russia for four years.

At the time of his original appointment at Thomas Cook, Mottershead told Travel Weekly: “I am going to be helping Thomas Cook to improve the quality of their product and developing the business in general.

“They have already started to introduce differentiated product; having unique hotels that are specific to Thomas Cook is critical.”

Asked if Thomas Cook was pursuing the same strategy as Tui in that regard, Mottershead replied: “It’s not that Thomas Cook want to copy Tui. It's about finding their own steps forward to offer something that others can’t, or that isn’t comparable online, but is specifically yours.

“For me, that’s the key to making yourself the number-one choice, which is what Thomas Cook needs to do.”

Mottershead said at the time that he had always wanted to work for Thomas Cook because of the strength of the brand.

“It’s almost happened in the past on several occasions so it’s great to be doing it at long last. It’s 100% the right time for me to be doing it.

"I believe in Thomas Cook because of the brand, the heritage. It’s the original travel brand, so to have completed my career without ever having worked for Cook would have been a very sad thing.”

Mottershead revealed he had contacted Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser through mutual contacts to ask about joining.

“I told him I wanted to join Thomas Cook as I believe in what he is trying to achieve,” he said.

He added: “I don’t think Thomas Cook is broken, because the brand is so strong. It is in a position to take advantage of the market as it stands for quality and service.

"I just need to take a good look at the organisation and see how I can improve it quickly. But it can be done as it’s all there.”

Mottershead stressed when he joined that he would be looking to work with the existing teams to support them and had “no intention” of bringing his own people in.

Mottershead started his travel career as finance director at Airtours Holidays before being promoted to managing director and then president and chief executive of its North American division.

In 2001, he became managing director of Tui UK, a position he held for almost three years before quitting and being succeeded by Peter Rothwell.

Between 2005 and 2009 he spent time outside of the majors when he founded and was chief executive of Travelzest, an umbrella firm for a number of niche operators.

The acrimonious collapse of Travelzest saw him leave to become First Choice Canada chief executive in 2009, before taking the role of Tui Russia managing director in July 2010 based in Moscow.

When appointing Mottershead, Syed, said: “I’m delighted to announce this new and exciting addition to the UK management team.

“Chris has an impressive pedigree in the international travel industry, with substantial experience over a number of years at a senior level. He enjoys an excellent reputation, with a well-proven vision of meeting the needs of customers in an omni-channel, technology-driven world.”

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