Independent agents have welcomed the appointment of Chris Mottershead as managing director of Thomas Cook UK, hoping for a period of greater third-party collaboration.
The former Tui and Airtours boss replaces Salman Syed on October 1 – his second promotion since joining Cook as business development director in April.
Syed, who was brought in by former Thomas Cook managing director Harriet Green, will leave at the end of the month to “pursue external opportunities”.
Alistair Rowland, travel services general manager at Midcounties Co-operative, said the retailer was “delighted with the appointment”.
“It adds greater weight to tour operator knowledge within Thomas Cook, which will clearly quicken the progress of growth for years to come. They have a tour operator running a tour operator, which has got to help.”
Rowland said Mottershead is regarded as a supporter of third parties, and he hoped the appointment signalled a more trade-friendly era.
While at Tui, Mottershead helped rebuild relations with the trade, scrapping the much-hated Preferred Agents Scheme in 2002.
Rowland said: “He is a big supporter of quality trade distribution and we look forward to building stronger relationships with Thomas Cook than we have had in recent years.”
Midcounties also hoped to have “positive discussions” over “synergies between the businesses” if The Co-operative Travel retail joint venture ends next year, he said.
Mottershead’s appointment was also welcomed by Travel Bureau co-owner Jeanne Lally, who worked for him for three years as head of third-party sales at Tui.
“It’s a very smart appointment. He is a tour operator through and through and switched on,” she said.
“For independent agents, it’s a wait-and-see situation. But Cook has to change its business model. It’s the next phase after coming out of the terrible mess it was in.”
Miles Morgan, owner of Miles Morgan Travel, said: “I think Chris will do a great job.
"The nuts and bolts of the operating business will be in better hands because he knows what he is doing; he’s a pro. It will put Cook on a much better footing than they are today. They have got a lot of catching up to do.”
Morgan said Cook would have to look at more product differentiation, which would inevitably lead to more direct competition with its main rival Tui.
“What other option is there? As soon as Cook has a more compelling proposition it will bring them head to head with Tui; it will almost certainly give Tui more of a run for its money,” he said.
But Morgan warned independent agents not to build their business around sales through either of the big two operators.
Announcing the appointment, Thomas Cook Group chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, 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. I am confident the UK business performance will go from strength to strength under his stewardship."
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.”
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