Comment: Is travel an insiders’ job?

Comment: Is travel an insiders’ job?

When Harriet Green was appointed as boss of Thomas Cook in 2012, it prompted a lively debate about why no one from travel was considered worthy of the role.

Amid claims that the industry can be too insular, one seasoned industry commentator said: “Too many people make out it’s a pre-requisite that you have to have travel experience. As an industry, we have a tendency to blow smoke up our own backsides.”

This week, Thomas Cook in the UK ended a short period of being headed by a non-travel executive when it appointed former Tui boss Chris Mottershead to the hot seat.

He will replace Salman Syed, a former colleague of Green’s at electronics distributor Premier Farnell, who was handed the managing director role in September 2014 after just a year in the industry.

Mottershead’s arrival at Cook in April came a few months after Peter Fankhauser – an industry veteran himself – had taken over from Green as chief executive.

So the process of Cook turning back to experienced travel executives at the top was under way before Mottershead joined, initially as business development director.

Does this mean those who argued that big travel firms need ‘travel people’ in charge have been proved correct?

Not necessarily. As has been pointed out, Carolyn McCall has been a great success at easyJet, while Green herself was credited with saving Cook during its darkest hour.

But it could also be reflective of the complexity of an industry which, to those with no previous experience of it, may appear to be a relatively straightforward proposition.


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